John Q. Easton, Director of IES, announced that Ruth Curran Neild has been named Commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance starting September 1st. "Ruth has been a superb Associate Commissioner and will bring her steady guidance and creative leadership to the Center," said Easton.
From January 2011 until her appointment as Commissioner, Dr. Neild served as the Associate Commissioner for NCEE's Knowledge Utilization division. In that capacity, she emphasized the importance of both technically excellent education research and its clear, engaging presentation for educators in user-friendly formats. Prior to joining NCEE, she was a Research Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools, where she worked on research projects that ranged from descriptive and correlational to studies of impact. She also served on the standing faculty of the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.
Neild is succeeding Rebecca Maynard, who is returning to the University of Pennsylvania. "Ruth is a fantastic choice for this position," said Maynard. "She brings to the job not only years of experience as a producer of highly policy relevant research, but also familiarity with and expertise in the full range of work that goes on in NCEE—from large-scale randomized controlled trials to the dissemination activities of the National Library of Education and ERIC. In the relatively short time Ruth has been at NCEE, she has demonstrated both vision for bringing more rigor and relevance to education research and an amazing talent for recruiting and mentoring staff to carry out the diversity of work that goes on in the center."
As Commissioner, she will oversee NCEE, one of four centers in the Institute of Education Sciences. NCEE helps educators and policy makers make informed decisions about education programs through the work of its two divisions: Evaluation, which conducts large-scale evaluations of federally funded education programs and practices, and Knowledge Utilization, which supports locally developed research and evaluation projects and technical assistance on data use through the ten Regional Educational Laboratories, and the synthesis and widespread dissemination of research through the What Works Clearinghouse, the National Library of Education, and the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) online database.
Neild said, "Conducting rigorous research on topics of greatest concern to educators and policymakers remains a top priority of NCEE. At the same time, we seek to lead the field in how we communicate about research, including development of products that are user-friendly, engaging, and attuned to the needs of the target audience." Neild also cites as a priority the efficient and effective use of resources through greater coordination among NCEE programs and with other federal investments in education, such as the State Longitudinal Data Systems grant program and the Comprehensive Centers.
Neild's research has focused on the transition to ninth grade, high school dropout, school choice, and teacher qualifications and assignment. Much of her work has involved analysis of state and district longitudinal data sets, including merged cross-agency data. She has written both for scholarly journals and for broader audiences, including a widely cited study of high school completion and two reports on teacher qualifications in Philadelphia. She cites her involvement in Project U-Turn, a community collaborative with the goal of stemming high school dropout rates, as formative in her understanding of how research can yield fresh scholarly insights and enhanced relevance when researchers and practitioners work closely together.
The parent of an elementary school aged child, Neild reports that she is reminded on a daily basis of the importance to children's development of caring teachers and high-quality instruction.
Dr. Neild earned her A.B. in history and sociology summa cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.
The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) is one of the four centers of the Institute of Education Sciences. NCEE is responsible for conducting rigorous evaluations of federal programs, synthesizing and disseminating information from evaluation and research, and providing technical assistance to improve student achievement through the work of the evaluation division and the knowledge utilization division that includes the Regional Educational Laboratory Program; the What Works Clearinghouse, the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), and the National Library of Education.
NCEE's evaluation division focuses on conducting rigorous impact studies of promising education programs and practices that are supported through federal funds by conducting studies that will assess the impact of education programs on academic achievement, particularly in reading, mathematics, and science. The evaluation studies use methodologies that can provide credible scientific evidence to answer questions of effectiveness.
The programs administered by NCEE through the knowledge utilization division include the Regional Educational Laboratory Program that is designed to serve the educational needs of designated regions by bringing the latest and best research and proven practices into school improvement efforts; the What Works Clearinghouse synthesizes the best evidence of the effectiveness of education programs, policies, and practices and reports on up-to-date research findings available through its website at http://www.whatworks.ed.gov; the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) the largest education database in the world that provides the public with a centralized ERIC website for searching the ERIC bibliographic databases of more than 1.1 million citations; and the National Library of Education that collects and archives information, providing special historical and current collections of Department of Education documents, a collection of journals supporting the ERIC database, research reports supporting the What Works Clearinghouse, and resources supporting current and historical federal education legislation.
Overall, the combined activities of NCEE are designed to promote the adoption of rigorous evaluation designs and methodologies in federal and non-federal education evaluation studies; provide technical assistance through the 10 regional educational laboratories on evidence-based research; and widely disseminate information on rigorously conducted education research and evaluation to state and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, Congress, parents, teachers, media and the general public on effective programs and practices that improve student achievement. NCEE is committed to providing quick and easy access to evidence-based information through online databases such ERIC and the What Works Clearinghouse.
For more information on the work of the NCEE evaluation and knowledge utilization divisions, consult NCEE Projects and Programs.