“If we don’t do things differently, our classrooms will look the same in 20 years as they do now,” warned Senator Michael Bennet (D. Colo.) during a discussion on Wednesday at AEI about his proposal for a new education research and development (R&D) project. While nearly every other sector in the economy devotes 10 to 20 percent of its budget to R&D, only 0.2 percent of the federal education budget is allocated to research and development. Sen. Bennet proposed his Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) as a way to align the interests of school districts and technology strategists to individualize instruction. Jim Shelton of the U.S. Department of Education pointed out how closely the federal government’s investment in education R&D is tied to America’s competitive advantage. Drawing from his experience at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Ken Gabriel urged those in the education space to consider what ARPA-ED must do to enact the same fundamental changes in education as DARPA has had on defense. He stressed the importance of a sense of urgency and focus on R&D as a way to ensure the efficacy of an ARPA-ED. John Easton of the Institute of Education Sciences agreed that there is a need for increased R&D in education, but cautioned against overpromising: ARPA-ED should not be seen as a silver bullet, but should be considered in the larger context of current education research efforts.
Education innovation has a bad reputation, and deservedly so. Most heralded "innovations" in education prove neither innovative nor educational. Much of the blame is due to the dismal state of research and development (R&D) in education. One notable effort to upend the status quo has been put forward by Senator (and former Denver superintendent of schools) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who has called for the formation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education. Drawing inspiration from the famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), credited with nurturing breakthroughs including the Internet and ballistic missile defense, Bennet proposes to create a similar agency focused on education. Join us for a discussion with Senator Bennet; John Easton, commissioner of the Institute of Education Sciences; and Ken Gabriel, deputy director of DARPA; and Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.