To benefit from the lessons of school reform, policy makers and researchers will need consistent information about what works from classroom to classroom. By finding ways to compare results from successful individual improvement projects, researchers will have a much more powerful set of data to draw upon to develop new approaches that be generalized for schools across the country.
The center, funded by a $6 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), will look specifically at projects that have been shown to be effective in improving reading, mathematics and science. "Often investigators are unaware of how their findings relate to work in other areas, or whether their findings are consistent with results from more comprehensive samples," said Barbara Schneider, senior research scientist at NORC, and a principal investigator for the project.
The center will work with researchers who have received grants through the Interagency Educational Research Initiative (IERI), a collaboration of NSF, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and an effort to improve pre-k-12 learning through integration of information technologies. The center will try to identify key features of successful educational programs. Ideally, this knowledge could be applied to other programs so that they, too, can be widely effective.
The new center at NORC will enable researchers on these projects to become a community of scholars able to share their knowledge about how to "scale up" effective programs, through seminars, workshops, and intensive courses for senior education professionals and policymakers, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and other researchers, Schneider said The center's research agenda will provide new insights into learning, child and adolescent development, and instruction. It will also chart changes over time and help scholars learn how to extend effective approaches to larger an more diverse populations.
Joining Schneider as co-principal investigators are University of Chicago colleagues Larry Hedges, professor of sociology; Colm O'Muircheartaigh, professor of public policy, and David Sallach, Director of Social Science Research Computing.