For nearly a year now, the education community has been waiting for key nominees for President Donald Trump’s Education Department. Some have been holding their collective breaths to see who get the nods for some of the “sexy” posts, including assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education.
Last night, President Trump announced the nomination of Mark Schneider to head the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). No, IES is hardly considered a sexy post by most in education. But it is an incredibly important nomination … and job.
If one believes in the identification, understanding, and use of education research, then IES is important. If one believes in scientifically based education, then IES is important. If one believes our schools — both K-12 and higher ed — should be focused on what is proven effective, then IES is important. If one believes data should trump philosophy when it comes to education, then IES is important.
It’s equally important that someone like Dr. Schneider is getting the nod for this job. Mark is both a terrific education researcher and a keen education policy person. He served as commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the George W. Bush Administration. Perhaps just as important, he is the nation’s foremost expert on the data surrounding the cost of college — the true cost of college — at least as it applies to students and their families.
I don’t just offer this hearty endorsement based on Dr. Schneider’s reputation. Eduflack has had the opportunity to work closely with the new head of IES, particularly in helping him launch College Measures, an American Institutes of Research center focused on improving higher education outcomes by better understanding higher education data.
At Dr. Schneider’s side, I gained a far greater appreciation for both the data and for its true meaning. I was able to explore how costly some community colleges truly were, when one looked at the cost of actually earning a degree. I had to do rhetorical battle with a university president who thought his eight-year graduation rate (for four-year undergraduate program!) of less than 30 percent was something to be applauded, not concerned about. And I came to appreciate the costs and benefits of college are best looked at through the lens of the consumer, not necessarily the provider, that we need to look at the cost of degree for a student to obtain, not for the university to offer.
I’m fortunate to call Mark Schneider a friend and a mentor in the ed data space. And from nearly two decades experience working with IES — working with the Institute since its inception in 2001 — I’m grateful we will have an experienced, knowledgeable, results-focused leader at the helm.
We may not always know who is leading an agency like IES, but when it isn’t someone of the caliber of Mark Schneider, we feel the impact.