Dec 9 -- Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider invites public input on a series of proposed actions to help reverse pandemic-related learning loss -- including an Education Data Science Center of Excellence and an Advanced Research Projects Activity at ED. See https://ies.ed.gov/director/remarks/12-9-2020.asp
Stand up an Education Data Science Center of Excellence
IES is the nation’s leading entity on independent educational scientific research and statistical analysis, yet the Institute lacks a division dedicated to the now well-established field of data science. Building on broader calls to invest in ED’s digital capacity, this unit would focus on the processes and systems that enable the extraction of knowledge or insights from data in various forms (of particular importance given the variety of data sources and standards among education research efforts). In practice, data science has evolved as an interdisciplinary field that integrates approaches from computer science and data analysis fields, such as statistics, data mining, and predictive analytics.
IES must recruit and hire top-tier data science talent as full-time employees at IES. Their mandate would be to work across all of IES’ programs to identify opportunities to support new research methods; surface insights from new and novel data sources, including unstructured data; and accelerate innovation and discovery.
Establish an Advanced Research Projects Activity at ED
Understanding student needs is half the battle but applying learning science to build breakthrough solutions at scale is essential to improving student outcomes. This requires far more focused R&D than ED has traditionally supported. ARPA-ED would fund projects performed by industry, universities, or other innovative organizations, selected for their potential to create a dramatic breakthrough in learning and teaching. It would be modeled after DARPA and The Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). DARPA-style programs tend to be higher risk and require a unique, nimble approach to program management. Some examples of ambitious projects that an ARPA-ED entity could pursue include: (1) closing the kindergarten readiness gap by using voice recognition and developing online assessments that rapidly assess emerging reading gaps and dyslexia; (2) using advances in natural language processing to allow automated feedback on student writing and math homework, giving teachers new digital aids to support student improvement; and (3) instrumenting large-scale digital learning platforms to create a research infrastructure that drives continuous improvement in use of the learning sciences. Building on IES’ new Transformative Research RFA, the Institute should seek to stand up a new dedicated ARPA-ED unit and rapidly identify several key projects for R&D investment across both the academic and private sectors.