Education Research:

Education Should Improve Assessments of R&D Centers, Regional Labs, and Comprehensive Centers

GAO-02-190: Published: Jan 18, 2002. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 2002.

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Research and Development (R&D) Centers, Regional Labs, and Comprehensive Centers support the Department of Education's research agenda to various degrees. Because statutes define different missions and activities for these programs, the amount and focus of the research and other research-based activities they support varies. Education shapes the priorities that guide the research done by the R&D Centers and targets the technical assistance provided by the Comprehensive Centers through requirements in agreements with these entities. However, Education has little control over the activities of the Regional Labs because, unlike most federal education programs, neither federal nor state governments have oversight responsibility for their programs. The R&D Centers, Regional Labs, and Comprehensive Centers reported collaborating and coordinating with each other and Education and cited various factors that have either facilitated or hindered such activities. They said that they were most likely to engage in these activities when they shared a common interest in a specific student population, such as English language learners, or in a specific topic, such as assessment. Current evaluation practices for assessing the R&D Centers, Regional Labs, and Comprehensive Centers have provided only limited information about the performance of these organizations and have not been useful for making future funding decisions.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: If Congress wants to increase the usefulness of the assessments of the R&D Centers and Regional Labs, Congress should consider allowing Education to use methods other than peer review when such methods are more appropriate than peer review for evaluating the activities of R&D Centers and Regional Labs.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of July 2006, no action has been taken.

    Matter: If Congress wishes to ensure greater accountability to a governmental entity for the Regional Labs, it could consider either giving Education responsibility for determining the regional agenda and overseeing the products and services of the Regional Labs or Education could provide these funds to states, possibly as part of a larger formula grant, for subsequent distribution by each state. This would give states greater control in purchasing research-based educational products and services.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of July 2006, no action has been taken.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the assessments of the R&D Centers and Regional Labs, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Education Research and Improvement to revise the peer review standards to allow for division of labor and greater concentration on assessing the quality of projects, services and products.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Due to agency reorganization, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement no longer exists. Its key functions have been reassigned to the newly authorized Institute of Education Sciences. Although the Assistant Secretary of the Institute had said that he was considering this recommendation, no action has been taken.

    Recommendation: To improve the assessments of the R&D Centers and Regional Labs, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Education Research and Improvement to use random selection of projects, services and products to be reviewed when conducting future evaluations of R&D Centers and Regional Labs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Educational Research and Improvement no longer exists. Its key functions have been reassigned to the newly authorized Institute of Education Sciences. Although the Assistant Secretary of the Institute had said that he was considering this recommendation, no action has been taken.

    Recommendation: To improve the performance and usefulness of the Comprehensive Centers, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Assistant Secretary of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs to design future evaluations of the Comprehensive Centers to produce findings pertaining to individual Comprehensive Centers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Education now conducts analysis for each comprehensive center individually, as mandated by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002.

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