Social Innovation

ALI Task Force Findings to Improve Education R&D

05.21.24 | 3 min read | Text by Megan Zabik

The Alliance for Learning Innovation (ALI) coalition, which includes the Federation of American Scientists, EdCounsel, and InnovateEdu, today celebrate the release of three task force briefs aimed at enhancing education research and development (“ed R&D”). With pressing issues such as declining literacy and math scores, chronic absenteeism, and the rise of technologies like AI, a strong ed R&D infrastructure is vital. In 2023, ALI convened three task forces to recommend ways to bolster ed R&D. The task forces focused on state and local ed R&D infrastructure, inclusive ed R&D, and the critical role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in this ecosystem.

State and Local Education R&D Infrastructure

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Supporting R&D at the local level encourages an environment of continuous learning, accelerating improvements to educational methods based on new evidence and pioneering research. Therefore, given that over 90% of K-12 education funding comes from state and local sources, the ALI task force recommends that capacity-building, vision alignment, and investment in state and local education agencies (SEAs and LEAs) is prioritized. Preparing these entities to leverage R&D resources within their specific locales, in rural and urban contexts, will enable the infrastructure to best meet the unique needs of communities and students across the country. Additionally, supporting human capacity and development, modernizing data systems, and strengthening collaborative partnerships and fellowships across research institutions and key stakeholders in the ecosystem, will set the stage for more context-specific and effective ed R&D infrastructure at the state and local levels.

Inclusive Education R&D

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Traditional education R&D is often dominated by privileged institutions and individuals with outsized access to capital and opportunities, sidelining the needs and perspectives of historically marginalized communities. To address this imbalance, intentional efforts are needed to create a more inclusive R&D ecosystem. The task force recommends that government actors implement multidimensional measures of progress and simplify application processes for R&D funding. Continuing dialogue on equity and inclusion will create space for identifying possible biases in approaches and processes. In sum, inclusion is imperative to achieving greater equity in education and supporting all learners of diverse backgrounds and communities.

The Role of HBCUs, MSIs, & TCUs in Education R&D

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Achieving collaborative infrastructure and inclusion in ed R&D requires the strong participation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). An equitable education R&D ecosystem must focus on the representation of these institutions and diverse student populations in research topics, grants, and funding to support learners from all backgrounds, particularly those of disadvantaged circumstances. Actionable steps include establishing diverse peer review panels, incentivizing grant proposals from minority-serving institutions, and creating specialized scholar programs. Additionally, programs should explicitly outline resource accessibility, leadership dynamics, funder relationships, grant processes, and inclusive language to dismantle structural inequalities and make the invisible visible.


Recommendations from the ALI task forces propose that sufficient funding, inclusivity, and diverse representation of higher education institutions are strong first steps in a path toward a more equitable and effective education system. The education R&D ecosystem must be a learning-oriented network committed to the principles of innovation that the system itself strives to promote across best practices in education and learning.