NYU Creates Research Program on Education Reform

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A new program aimed at promoting scholarly and public attention to school reform, especially in big-city districts, is being established at New York University.

Chaired by NYU professors Diane Ravitch and Joseph Viteritti, the Program on Education and Civil Society will commission research as well as sponsor lectures and seminars at the school's New York City campus.

Joseph Viteritti

"The thrust is going to be to promote research and discussion of recent initiatives," especially those in urban districts, said Ms. Ravitch, an education historian who holds appointments at both NYU and the Brookings Institute in Washington.

Mr. Viteritti, a political scientist, said the idea is to bring in scholars from several fields, broadening the base of education research and strengthening its impact on urban school reform.

Diane Ravitch

"We want people to do research in education who might not usually do that," Mr. Viteritti said in an interview last week. "We hope to inform the discussion going on among policymakers and be available to them by engaging some of the best researchers."

The two scholars said the interdisciplinary nature of the program is reflected in its advisory board, which is being drawn from NYU's faculty of arts and sciences, its Robert F. Wagner graduate school of public service, its education school, and its law school. The program is based in both the schools of education and of public service.

A Critical Eye

Ms. Ravitch said school reform has fallen woefully short in the nation's urban school systems, depriving millions of children of an equal educational opportunity.

"The working premise is we believe ... there has to be much higher performance from school systems," she said. "Where this program will be somewhat different is we'll be looking at all the recent initiatives and judging them by their performance" in improving school systems and student achievement.

Of particular interest, the scholars said, will be charter schools, vouchers and private school choice, management reforms, equity issues, educational standards and accountability, and, for the first year, the New York City school system.

Ms. Ravitch, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education in the Bush administration, has been a prominent voice for academic standards and school choice, including vouchers.

The program is being supported mainly by a $1.2 million grant over the next three years from the New York City-based John M. Olin Foundation.

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