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News from the National Academies
Date: April 3, 2003
Contacts: Vanee Vines, Media Relations Officer
Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Publication Announcement

Bold Effort Needed to Forge New Partnership
Among Researchers, K-12 Educators, and Policy-makers

Federal agencies and private foundations have long supported education-research programs that are designed to improve schools and raise academic achievement. In many cases, such efforts have born fruit. Still, research has not penetrated classroom practice deeply enough to significantly affect student learning.

A bold new R&D system is needed to encourage scientists and educators to work together and gain insights from one another, closely linking education research to the schoolhouse, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The committee that wrote the report proposed the creation of a "Strategic Education Research Partnership" (SERP) that would marshal scientific knowledge, financial resources, and the expertise of teachers to considerably boost student achievement.

This initiative would seamlessly weave education research and development with everyday practice in the nation's K-12 classrooms. Currently, researchers have few opportunities to study schooling up close, the report notes. At the same time, educators seldom have a chance to scientifically analyze their own practices or to shape research agendas, which often resemble checklists that fail to reflect the complexities of teaching or advances in relevant fields. Budgets for education research and development frequently are inadequate and unpredictable.

SERP would provide a unique mechanism through which scientists, educators, and policy-makers could combine and use their wisdom and investigate issues over time – systematically accumulating research-based knowledge, taking stock of what works and in what settings, and figuring out how to widely expand effective approaches to teaching and organizing schools. Tackling teachers' problems with instruction and curricula would be a priority, the committee said.

SERP would have three organizational components. A central headquarters would design and oversee a coherent program of first-rate education research, set long-term goals, pull together and disseminate findings, and pursue sources of funding. In addition, teams of highly skilled practitioners and leading researchers in various disciplines would probe specific topics. Finally, their work would take place largely in schools and school districts across the country that volunteer to serve as SERP field sites, the report says. These sites would be akin to teaching hospitals in the medical profession. They would give top-notch scientists and practitioners a place to collaborate in, defining and investigating major questions.

A compact of states would be central to the partnership. State governments are primarily responsible for providing and funding K-12 education services. One of SERP's chief goals would be to help state policy-makers develop the necessary skills to frame, use, and evaluate education research and development to meet their needs, the report says.

But states alone cannot bring about the envisioned R&D system. Essential to the SERP enterprise would be a broad coalition of critical partners, including federal authorities, private foundations, and businesses, the committee added.

To take root and thrive, the initiative would require substantial investments. The cost to launch SERP and fund it throughout a seven- to 10-year trial period would be about $500 million, the report says. That expense may seem high to some policy-makers, given current state budget crunches and the meager funds traditionally allocated for education research and development. But the total bill amounts to less than a quarter of 1 percent of annual state spending on elementary and secondary education – a very small rate of investment for research and development in any sector of the economy.

Private foundations and businesses often have taken the lead in financing the early stages of pathbreaking projects, and the committee urged them to do so in this case. Congress and federal agencies also might provide financial support during the trial period, given their shared interest in the type of school-based research envisioned for SERP. As SERP matures, members of the state compact would be expected to take on financial responsibility.

The time is ripe for the initiative, the committee emphasized. By and large, K-12 researchers and educators have not made the most of recent advances in disciplines such as cognitive science, developmental psychology, and organizational theory. Many education policies and practices that have been effective in certain settings have not been developed or studied enough to successfully transplant them elsewhere. And greater collaboration is needed among researchers themselves.

The report targets several key audiences: federal and state policy-makers, educators, school administrators, private industry, the research and academic communities, and foundations. Making SERP's vision a reality hinges on the will and resources of an extensive group of allies committed to improving the education of all U.S. students.

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Spencer Foundation. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

Copies of Strategic Education Research Partnership are available from the National Academies Press for $30.00 (prepaid) plus shipping charges of $4.50 for the first copy and $.95 for each additional copy; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or order on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[ This announcement and the report are available at http://national-academies.org ]


NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences

Committee on a Strategic Education Research Plan

Joe B. Wyatt (chair)
Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer
Vanderbilt University (retired)
Nashville, Tenn.

John S. Reed (vice chair)
Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer
Citigroup (retired)
New York City

Catherine Snow (vice chair)
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Cambridge, Mass.

Carole Ames
Professor of Educational Psychology, and
Dean of the College of Education
Michigan State University
East Lansing

James N. Baron
Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources
Graduate School of Business
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

Lloyd Bond
Professor
Department of Education Research Methodology
University of North Carolina
Greensboro

David Cohen
John Dewey Collegiate Professor of Education, and
Professor of Public Policy
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Laura Cooper
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction
Evanston Township High School
Evanston, Ill.

Charles Miller
Chairman
Meridian Advisors Ltd.
Houston

Richard R. Nelson
George Blumenthal Professor of International and Public Affairs
Columbia Business School
Columbia University
New York City

Rebecca Palacios
Prekindergarten Teacher
Dual Language Program
Lorenzo de Zavala Elementary School
Corpus Christi, Texas

Thomas W. Payzant
Superintendent
Boston Public Schools
Boston

Michael Rothschild
Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and
Professor of Economics and Public Affairs
Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.

Ted Sanders
President
Education Commission of the States
Denver

Philip Uri Treisman
Professor of Mathematics, and
Director
Charles A. Dana Center for Mathematics and Science Education
University of Texas
Austin

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

Suzanne Donovan
Associate Director, SERP Initiative

Alexandra K. Wigdor
Study Director