Education Reform

Trump Appoints Unqualified People to Education Research Advisory Board

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For most of Trump’s term, he failed to appoint enough members to the National Board for Education Sciences, which has not had a quorum to meet since the end of Obama’s term. Suddenly he announced a flurry of names for the board, and the education research world was shocked to see that Trump’s list included no bona fide education researchers.

The board is supposed to advise the director of the Institute for Education Sciences, but Trump’s eight nominees are unqualified to offer much advice.

Science magazine reports:

One month before his term expires, President Donald Trump has revived a moribund federal education research advisory panel by appointing eight members who appear to have no expertise in the subject area.

The National Board for Education Sciences (NBES) provides guidance to the director of the Institute for Education Science (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. But the lack of a quorum on the 15-member presidentially appointed board has prevented it from meeting since the waning days of the Obama administration.

 That lengthy presidential snub of the panel was part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to shrink government that resulted in a reduced flow of scientific advice to various federal agencies.  That effort has had a particularly dramatic impact at regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, where the administration dismantled or dramatically reshaped several science advisory panels. For education researchers, a mothballed NBES deprived them of a high-level conduit for using their methodological expertise to help shape federal policies meant to improve education outcomes for all students...

The member with arguably the highest public profile is John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He served in the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush, and authored the so-called “torture memos” that provided the legal justification for the war on terror waged in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks. Yoo has also been vocal in defending Trump’s action during his impeachment and in his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

Two other appointees–Michael Anton and Larry Schweikart—have also stridently defended Trump against what they see as existential threats to national security posed by liberal politicians. Anton spent a year at the National Security Council before becoming a regular presence on social media, and Schweikart, who retired in 2016 after 30 years as a history professor at the University of Dayton, is the author of “48 Liberal Lies about American History” and “A Patriot’s History of the United States.”

Some of the others have backgrounds in banking or finance.

Having worked in the first Bush administration in the research area, let me say that I take exception to the use of “science” in the large and diffuse field of education. Much of what is appropriately studied is qualitative, not quantitative. The effort during the second Bush administration to turn the Office of Educational Research into the Institute of Educational Sciences was pretentious, in my view.

Be that as it may, the advisory board to the National Center for Education Statistics included many of the best qualified education researchers in the nation. The director could justly turn to the board for sound advice about education policy and the needs of the field.

My hunch is that these eight people appointed by Trump think they will have an important role in deciding the nation’s education policies. They won’t. They will sit through sessions that are technical in nature and listen to presentations about research priorities. These presentations, for the uninitiated, are likely to bore them. I suspect that many will quit before their terms expire.

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