Five Ideas for the Education Sciences Reform Act

Earlier this month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee called on the education community for input on policies to include in a reauthorized Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). First enacted in 2002 and last reauthorized in 2008, the ESRA established the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) as the independent research branch of the Department of Education and broadly authorized the federal government to conduct coordinated and scientifically-based research on the US education system. The potential reauthorization of the ESRA by the 118th Congress marks a major opportunity to update and streamline our education research and development (R&D) ecosystem for the modern era. 

The Alliance for Learning Innovation (ALI) Coalition, which FAS helps lead, was pleased to submit a response to the Senate HELP committee’s request (read it in full here). The ALI Coalition brings together education nonprofits, philanthropy, and the private sector to advocate for building a better education R&D infrastructure that is based in evidence, centers students and practitioners, advances equity, improves talent pathways, and expands America’s globally competitive workforce. 

ALI sees great promise in a robust, inclusive, and updated education R&D ecosystem, with the IES playing a key role. If the 118th Congress decides to reauthorize the ESRA, ALI urges the HELP committee to strengthen our education system by prioritizing the following policies:

Support informed-risk, high-reward research and development, especially with respect to development. Congress should create a National Center for Advanced Development in Education (NCADE), which would catalyze breakthroughs in education research and innovation similarly to how the DARPA model accelerated the study of emerging defense technologies. NCADE would fund informed-risk, high-reward projects developed by universities, nonprofits, industry, or other innovative organizations.

Enhance federal, state, and local education R&D infrastructure. Congress should direct and support IES to research the development of innovative approaches and technologies that improve teaching and learning. IES should also encourage information and data sharing between states by expanding and modernizing the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) program and providing other forums for interstate connection. 

Support the development of diverse education R&D talent. IES should dedicate specific research grant programs for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs). Additionally, IES should offer “data science fluency training grants” to academic researchers, especially at HBCUs, MSIs, and TCCUs, as well as establish a “rotator program” that would bring in talent with advanced expertise to complement the skills of their current staff.

Drive collaboration between IES, NSF, and other federal agencies. Congress should encourage IES and the new Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate at NSF to collaborate and support R&D programs that enhance research on teaching and learning in emerging technologies that can create efficiencies and improve outcomes.

Promote data privacy. ALI believes the ESRA reauthorization should remain separate from attempts to improve the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, Congress should update ESRA to strengthen the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). 

The ALI Coalition knows that a potential ESRA reauthorization is a crucial inflection point for American education. We hope to see Congress strengthen our country’s commitment to education R&D so we can better embrace innovative, evidence-based practices that improve learning outcomes.

ALI Releases Statement on the President’s FY2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Alliance for Learning Innovation (ALI) applauds the increases proposed for education research and development (R&D) and innovation in the President’s budget request. These include the $870.9 million proposed for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), including $75 million for a National Center for Advanced Development in Education (NCADE), the $405 million proposed for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program and the $1.4 billion for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for STEM Education. These investments represent real commitments to advancing an inclusive education research system that centers students, teachers, and communities.

These recommendations build upon the bipartisan interest in utilizing education R&D to  accelerate learning recovery, increase student achievement, and ensure students and teachers are prepared for the continued impact technology will have on teaching and learning. National and economic security depends on the success of our students and ALI appreciates the priorities this budget request places on fostering innovations in education that will support U.S. competitiveness.

Dan Correa, CEO of the Federation of American Scientists and co-lead of ALI notes, “Investments in education research and development hold so much promise for dramatically improving gaps in student achievement. Learning recovery, workforce development, and global competition all demand a pool of talent that can only come from an education system that meets the needs of diverse learners. The President’s budget request recognizes that more robust education R&D is needed to support bold innovations that meet the needs of students, teachers, families, and communities.”

This budget will allow IES and other federal agencies the ability to build on boundary-pushing efforts like the National AI Institute for Exceptional Education, which is supporting advancements in AI, human-AI interaction, and learning science to improve educational outcomes for children with speech and language related challenges.

For too long, federal support for education R&D has languished while resources and attention have been devoted to R&D in health care, defense, energy, and other fields. Today’s budget represents a critical step forward in addressing this deficiency. The Alliance for Learning Innovation looks forward to championing the continued development of an education R&D ecosystem that will lead to the types of groundbreaking developments and advancements we see in health care and defense; thus affording students everywhere access to fulfilling futures.

For more information about the Alliance for Learning Innovation, please visit