Foundation Awards RAND $10 Million For an Institute on Education Research
In one of the largest private grants ever for education research, the Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded $10 million to the rand Corporation to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the nation's education and training system.
With the five-year grant, rand will establish an Institute on Education and Training Research, which will examine a range of issues that cut across educational levels and segments of the education and social-service systems.
Georges Vernez, director of the institute, said the project will differ from most education-research efforts by enabling researchers to "look at issues and stay with them for a while, rather than take one shot and turn away."
"We intend to look at education and training as a sector, as opposed to taking a small slice of it," said Mr. Vernez, who is currently head of rand's education and human-resources program.
"At the same time, we don't intend to focus on one policy area," he continued. "If you talk about school restructuring, it's wrong to talk only about teacher professionalism, without being concerned about what the consequences are for changing other parts of the system."
Gerald E. Sroufe, director of government and professional liaison for the American Educational Research Association, said the grant represents an unusual example of foundation support for education research. Rather than provide funds to enable researchers to investigate questions, he said, foundations tend to have "seized on what the answer is."
"There is not much example of a foundation providing money for research, as opposed to demonstration projects," Mr. Sroufe said.
Joan S. Lipsitz, program director for elementary and secondary education at the Lilly Endowment, said the project was appropriate, particularly in light of the "pitifully little" the nation invests in education research and development.
"There are many, many ways to help improve education in the country," she said. "While nobody believes research and policy analysis, in and of themselves, can do that, I don't believe you can do it without them."
Based in Santa Monica, Calif., the rand Corporation has for years issued numerous studies on such issues as teaching, school organization, and academic tracking.
Although the new institute's independent board of overseers has yet to lay out a research agenda, the center is expected to complement rand's existing education-research projects, according to Mr. Vernez.
"Other efforts will continue," he said. "This is not intended to substitute for them."
He added that, in keeping with rand's tradition, the institute will focus on applied research, rather than basic research. In the future, the institute plans to design and implement field experiments to test innovative approaches, Mr. Vernez said.
In addition, in conjunction with the rand graduate school, the institute will train education-policy analysts, he said.
If it is successful, the institute will help answer in a timely manner some of the pressing questions policymakers and practitioners have about education, Ms. Lipsitz said.
"The intent is to help establish one place that truly has as its mission connecting policy analysis and its implications for practice," she said.
Mr. Vernez noted that rand is seeking additional financial support for the institute, and plans to keep it in place beyond the five years of the Lilly grant. And he added that the organization would welcome other similar endeavors.
"It is unique to establish a research-and-development center in the area of education and training," Mr. Vernez said. "It's the first; hopefully it will not be the last."
Vol. 10, Issue 21, Page 8