The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the independent, non-partisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. IES' stated mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public. It was created as part of the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002.
The first director of IES was Grover Whitehurst, who was appointed in November 2002 and served for six years. Mark Schneider is currently the Director of IES.
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IES is divided into four major research and statistics centers:
The National Board for Education Sciences serves as an advisory board for IES and has 15 voting members, who are appointed by the President of the United States. The Board also includes several ex-officio, non-voting members, including the director of IES, the commissioners of the four centers, and representatives of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Science Foundation. The Board advises and consults with the director and the commissioners to identify research and organizational priorities for IES. Dr. Larry Hedges, of Northwestern University, is currently the chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences.
In the winter of 2020–2021, after the election of President Biden but before his inauguration in January, the Trump administration carried out numerous eleventh-hour appointments including filling out the board of the NBES, positions which had remained open for several years. Many of these appointment choices were harshly criticized by education organizations for a lack of academic or educational research credentials. In May 2021, two of the new NBES appointees, Steve Hanke and John Yoo, both professors, published a commentary in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) claiming that their Board commission documents (as well as those of others) had been duly signed and certified during the Trump administration and sent to the office of the Secretary of Education, yet the new Secretary, Miguel Cardona refused to acknowledge the appointments, deliver the credentials, or facilitate statutorily required Board meetings. In the WSJ letter, the professors asserted that these circumstances mirror those of the landmark 1803 U.S. Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison. In July 2021, The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) claimed that they had obtained emails from White House officials confirming that Department of Education officials were in possession of the credentials and that PLF had sent a demand letter on behalf of Hanke and Yoo. In August, the PLF, on behalf of Hanke and Yoo, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for The District of Columbia against Secretary Cardona and the Department of Education. The suit acknowledged that NBES Board members can be removed by the administration, but argued that it must do so transparently and cannot withhold credentials or obstruct the Board's statutorily required duties. On September 3, 2021, the Biden administration acknowledged the validity of the appointments and formally terminated them, leading to a withdrawal of the suit.