To the Editor:
Your article “Program Lets Urban Districts Call Shots on Research” (Nov. 12, 2008) highlights the Council of the Great City Schools’ research-fellowship program, noting that letting districts set the research agenda echoes the principles of the Strategic Education Research Partnership. The piece mischaracterizes the partnership, however, when it says that SERP “has struggled in recent years to raise the money to meet its original ‘grand vision,’ which called for a $700 million, 15-year effort” to build an infrastructure for research and development focused on urgent problems of practice.
The actual SERP story is far more encouraging than implied; indeed, two of the three CGCS grants last year were awarded to researchers who were working in collaboration with districts through SERP partnerships.
Many of those who helped create the SERP vision also understood that the first step would involve a smaller-scale proof of concept. That work began in 2005, when the first SERP field site was created in Boston, followed in succeeding years by sites in San Francisco and in a set of five districts that participate in the Minority Student Achievement Network.
These partnerships have focused on a broad agenda established by school district leaders, and have successfully recruited many of the nation’s most outstanding researchers. The partnerships have produced responsive, innovative interventions, assessments, and professional-development tools in relatively short order. Crucially, SERP is studying all its efforts, so that improvements made in partner districts will contribute to knowledge and tools accessible to all districts.
Rather than focusing on large-scale fundraising, the partnership has spent the last few years developing and honing a productive, scalable model for research and development on problems of practice. The major strides that have been made suggest it is a model worthy of careful consideration among those who will be shaping future investments in educational innovation and improvement.
Strategic Education Research Partnership Institute
A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2008 edition of Education Week as Research Fellowship Story Mischaracterizes SERP Effort