School & District Management

New Generation of Education Research Centers Is Chosen

By Debra Viadero — September 23, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have won contracts from the U.S. Department of Education to head the first of a new generation of national education research centers.

The centers, focusing separately on school choice, improving the academic performance of low-achieving students, and rural education, are the first of eight new federal research centers to come out of the department’s new Institute of Education Sciences.

With grants of $10 million each over five years, the centers are markedly smaller than the generation of federal education research centers that preceded them. But they also break ground by covering new territory, enlisting non-university-based research partners, and offering more focused research programs.

Vanderbilt’s new Center on School Choice, Competition, and Achievement, for instance, will be the first such federal research center to take a wide-ranging look at school choice and all its implications, according to Kenneth K. Wong, the center’s director.

“It will be a multidisciplinary research program that will address aspects of choice at both the individual student level, in terms of student achievement, and the institutional level,” he said. “We’ll examine the cost-effectiveness of choice, what happens to schools under the choice provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, and what happens to the traditional neighborhood public school system.”

The Nashville, Tenn., center has also recruited nontraditional research partners, such as the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, and the Northwest Evaluation Association, a Portland, Ore., nonprofit organization that provides testing services to 1,200 school districts.

Addressing New Issues

Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University was awarded a grant to start the Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education, which will be based at the Success for All Foundation in Baltimore, according to Robert E. Slavin, a Johns Hopkins professor who is a co-director of the foundation.

The new center will focus on low-achieving districts, develop benchmark tests to help them pinpoint their weaknesses, and draw solutions for them from a stable of research-based, off-the-shelf improvement programs, such as Success For All, Direct Instruction, and America’s Choice.

Mr. Slavin said the research group also plans to test its approach by randomly assigning some of the districts to either implement the improvement recommendations immediately or wait a year.

The third new facility, the Center on Rural Education, based at UNC in Chapel Hill, N.C., is focusing on the transitions that students in rural areas make from home to school and from elementary to middle school.

Director Thomas W. Farmer said his center would also study distance-learning programs that can bring rigorous coursework, such as Advanced Placement courses, to secondary school students in remote areas.

“So much of the focus on rural education has been at the early-childhood level,” he said.

Less Money, Tighter Focus

In describing the Education Department’s new approach, Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the director of the Institute of Education Sciences, said: “In a nutshell, it’s the focus that is different between the old [research and development] centers and the new centers.”

The centers also have to be more focused because they are getting just a fraction of the federal funding their forerunners received-a reduction that has disappointed education research advocates.

For instance, Mr. Slavin’s previous research center, the Center for Research on Educating Students Placed at Risk, received $33.5 million in its last, five-year run as a federal education center.

Mr. Whitehurst contended, however, that the amounts are in keeping with those for other research centers that the department underwrites.

The competition for the three centers drew a total of 50 applicants. The department decided to postpone until 2006 plans to finance a fourth center-on higher education-after reviewers rejected the applications submitted this time around.

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Q&A School Libraries and Controversial Books: Tips From the Front Lines
A top school librarian explains how districts can prepare for possible challenges to student reading materials and build trust with parents.
6 min read
Image of library shelves of books.
mikdam/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty