October 24, 2012

From GrantWeek: ED Board Offers IES Planning and Competition Insight

During an October 5, 2012 meeting of the National Board for Education Sciences, GRC staff joined a discussion on the future of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the primary research arm of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Background information and meeting materials will provide important insight to researchers who are preparing to compete for FY 13 and 14 federal education research funding.

Although IES remains one of ED’s most selective grantmaking units, it has steadily increased the number competitions—beginning with just three in its inaugural year—and awards. In FY 12, for example, the institute supported 49 new projects through the National Center for Special Education Research and 33 new projects through the National Center for Education Research. IES leaders are currently working their way toward FY 13 funding decisions, with reviewers wrapping up evaluation of proposals submitted in June before turning to last month’s round of submissions.

Meanwhile, the institute is seeking comments on a new FY 14 research topic, tentatively titled Continuous Improvement Research in Education. With a February competition planned, the program will offer $1.5 million over five years for research on the ways education system components work together to generate desired outcomes. The broad objectives are to create a safe, orderly, and supportive learning climate for students from preschool through high school; improve students’ transition to high school; and increase access to college and postsecondary training.

The continuous improvement research topic will join the existing Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies (84.305E) and Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research (84.305H) topics under a new program umbrella, Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy. These will complement, not replace, IES’s established Education Research Programs (84.305A).

IES is operating with an FY 13 budget of $593.7 million under the government’s most recent continuing resolution, which was enacted September 28, 2013 and will sustain federal government operations through March 27, 2012. Separate from its annual budget, IES also awaits reauthorization.

The institute was established under the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002, and groups such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA), which gave input into the authorizing legislation, believe IES has been subject to significant organizational limitations from the start. An IES reauthorization task force convened by AERA in 2009 spent 18 months meeting with federal agency advisors, association leaders, and public stakeholders to develop detailed recommendations that it believes will expand the institute’s capacity to fulfill its role as the U.S. government’s primary education research trailblazer. The task force’s final report calls for measures to increase IES’s efficiency and autonomy, leverage its influence, and ramp up its funding over the next decade, with a target appropriation “equal to 0.5% of the national investment in K-12 education operational expenditures.”

GRC will continue to track the IES reauthorization and competition development. Researchers should begin assessing their competitiveness for future IES competitions by reviewing the projects that have been funded over the last decade. A database of awards made between FY 02 and FY 12 is available online, and GRC program advisor teams can provide assistance in obtaining sample proposals or identifying alternative funding sources for education research. Direct specific questions about the October 5 meeting to Monica Herk, executive director of the National Board for Education Sciences.

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