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Legislative Update

U. S. Senate Takes On Reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act

By Ralph Forsht, Manager, Advocacy & Legislative Affairs

Posted on 2023-05-03

U. S. Senate Takes On Reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act

Last month, NSTA formally responded to a request for feedback from the leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which authorizes much of the federal government’s efforts to collect statistics and conduct research on the U.S. educational system. Specifically, HELP Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and HELP Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in a bipartisan manner asked the education community to provide feedback regarding the following: increasing the effectiveness of existing federal education research, statistics, and technical assistance programs; improving the capacity of practitioners across education systems to identify and implement evidence-based practices; mobilizing education research and statistics to more effectively reach educators and system leaders; and bolstering partnerships among educators, school systems, institutions of higher education, localities and states, and the federal government in using education research to improve teaching and learning and postsecondary access and success. 

The senators hope to use the input provided during the reauthorization process to enhance the ESRA, to ensure that research meets the future educational needs of the nation and is used to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for children, youth, and other students.

ESRA was enacted in 2002 and expired in 2008. ESRA has not been formally addressed since its authorization expired, although it has continued to be funded through annual appropriations by Congress.

NSTA appreciates the bipartisan way Senators Sanders and Cassidy are approaching this effort. NSTA cited the following priorities for the HELP Committee’s consideration:

  • Increase the frequency and comprehensiveness of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) science assessment to match those of math and reading. Science should have equal priority with mathematics and English language arts in federal and state accountability requirements. Accountability drives the amount and quality of instruction provided in the classroom and will result in better student outcomes.
  • Support and produce a national state-by-state scorecard for key science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education metrics. Having a national tool that aggregates all of the key metrics would be extremely beneficial to federal and state efforts to effectively scale up STEM-related experiences.
  • Examine and increase the federal funding available for hands-on science learning materials, products, kits, and manipulatives available for instruction.

Enhancing science literacy and increasing quality science education experiences need to be a strong focus of ESRA reauthorization. Read NSTA’s formal response to Senators Sanders and Cassidy. NSTA looks forward to working closely with the leadership of the HELP Committee as it considers reauthorization of ESRA. 

Stay tuned for more updates in future issues of NSTA Reports.

The mission of NSTA is to transform science education to benefit all through professional learning, partnerships, and advocacy.

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