Partnership on Research for Indiana & Notre Dame

June 21, 2012William Schmitt

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The University of Notre Dame has entered into a historic partnership with the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) that aims to improve learning for Indiana children. Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., of the University of Notre Dame, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett announced the partnership at a press conference in South Bend this afternoon.

This new research partnership will allow scholars at Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) and others from around the country to conduct independent research to inform policymakers as they seek strategies to improve educational quality in the state of Indiana.

The principal mission of the partnership will be to provide independent, nonpartisan, empirical research to inform education policy that serves and supports the children and families of Indiana.  The research will be conducted by some of the nation’s leading educational experts at Notre Dame as well as interdisciplinary faculty and professionals from around the country. The research will focus on such subjects as the effects of parental choice programs on schools, teachers and students; improving the quality of teaching; and effective teacher preparation.

"Students across the state will benefit from the rich, collaborative thought leadership of research scientists from across the country who will bring a wide variety of independent perspectives to this initiative,” Fr. Scully said. “It is our greatest hope that this effort will prove to be a vibrant hub of scholarly activity that will ultimately benefit our country's most treasured gifts – our schools and the children they serve.”

"I am pleased the University of Notre Dame will join us as partners in our effort to continuously improve student learning in Indiana,” Bennett said. “Notre Dame is well known for outstanding scholarship, and I have no doubt this research will add an important voice to our statewide discussions on education policy. This additional perspective will be helpful as we work to make sure all students receive the educational opportunities they need to succeed in college and careers.”

The new research effort will be led by Mark Berends, professor of sociology and the director of the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity at Notre Dame.  It will have an advisory board whose members include national experts in education, research, professionals from the IDOE, former elected officials, and school administrators and teachers.

FACT SHEET: MORE ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP WITHIN THE INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVES

RESEARCH CENTER ON EDUCATIONAL POLICY

 

 

 

What is the Research Center on Educational Policy? What is its mission?

The Research Center on Educational Policy (RCEP) is a new component of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives. It will convene interdisciplinary expertise from Notre Dame and other research universities to conduct independent, empirical research projects that inform K-12 educational policy in Indiana. The RCEP will work directly with the Indiana Department of Education. The research to be conducted, while tailored to state priorities, is anticipated to make significant contributions to academic and policy discussions nationwide.

What are the issues to be addressed?

The research projects at the RCEP, while nonpartisan, objective, and independent of any government control, will be responsive to the priority research needs identified by the state partners. The partnership in Indiana entails stewardship of data collected from the state’s schools, teachers, and students, to be organized and analyzed by Notre Dame with rigorous methods of scientific inquiry. The approach points toward an era of more effective, data-informed policy-making on issues such as these:

  • How do parental choice policies (such as the expansion of charter schools and choice scholarships) affect schools, teachers, and students?
  • What is revealed by measures of teacher effectiveness, quality, and motivation?
  • What are the trends in the achievement gaps among different groups of students, and how do educational policies affect those trends?
  • How do student outcomes shed light on their engagement, their motivation, and their character and moral development?
  • What key lessons can be found in turning around low-performing schools, in dropout rates, and in digital learning and cyber schools?

Who will provide direction and staffing for the center?

A Notre Dame Steering Committee for the Center will draw upon the leadership of the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI). An external advisory board will provide guidance on the research priorities for Indiana and Michigan state educational policies; this board will have broad composition, including national experts in education research, educational practitioners in the states, staff members from the Indiana and Michigan departments of education, former elected officials, and other stakeholders.

The center’s core staff includes distinguished IEI Fellow and Notre Dame sociologist of education Mark Berends, who serves as RCEP director, along with two research scientists and a data programmer. Later, subject-specific investigators and research project associates will be added. Graduate students will also be involved.                                                                                                                                                          (6/21/12)

 

UPDATED OCTOBER 2012:

Vision for Better Schools Drives Notre Dame Partnerships in Indiana, Michigan

How can government leaders be sure that the education policies they enact really improve schools and help children learn? A new Notre Dame center for independent research will help education administrators at the state level—initially in Indiana and Michigan—determine the impact of initiatives such as parental choice programs and efforts to improve teacher quality to give every student the best possible preparation for the future.

This year, the University established the Research Center on Educational Policy, directed by distinguished sociologist Mark Berends, to lead interdisciplinary scholars in assessing data collected from K-16 schools across the two states—and perhaps others, in time. Non-partisan analysis by education experts at Notre Dame and their collaborators at other leading universities will inform policy-makers about what’s working and what’s not so that public and private schools can spend their money most effectively to improve student learning and shrink achievement gaps.

The Research Center, a unit of the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI), has entered into a historic partnership with the Indiana Department of Education. This partnership will focus on results from the establishment in 2011 of the nation’s largest voucher program. The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program provides qualifying families with state money to offset tuition costs at participating private schools. Indiana has also doubled the number of public charter schools over the past five years.

But little is known so far about the impacts of these school choice efforts. Using data collected throughout Indiana’s schools, the Research Center plans to examine students’ achievement gains and the conditions under which parental choice options—in private, charter, and traditional public schools—make a significant difference.

"Students across the state will benefit from the rich, collaborative thought leadership of research scientists at Notre Dame and their colleagues across the country who will bring a wide variety of independent perspectives to this (Research Center) initiative,” says Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C., director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives. “It is our greatest hope that this effort will prove to be a vibrant hub of scholarly activity that will ultimately benefit our country’s most treasured gifts—our nation’s children and the schools that serve them.”

Meanwhile, a proposed project called the Michigan Partnership for Teacher Effectiveness, in which the Research Center will collaborate with the Michigan Department of Education, aims to assess that state’s own ambitious policy initiative—promoting new teacher evaluation systems. As with Indiana, a great opportunity exists to leverage the information found in existing statewide data. For Michigan, independent analysis led by Notre Dame could help improve teacher preparation and guide the revision of teacher evaluation policies.

The research to be conducted at Notre Dame, while tailored to state priorities, is anticipated to make significant contributions to academic and policy discussions nationwide.

At the June 2012 announcement of the Research Center and Notre Dame’s partnership with the Indiana Department of Education, Dr. Tony Bennett, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, joined Father Scully and Prof. Berends in envisioning research that will enlighten statewide discussions of education policy.    

“Our new Research Center is privileged to partner with outstanding educational leaders in both Indiana and Michigan who share Notre Dame’s goal of ensuring that all students receive the educational opportunities they need to succeed in college and careers,” Berends said.

Through teaching, research, and service, the Institute for Educational Initiatives improves the education of the young, particularly the disadvantaged, with a special, though not exclusive, call to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools.

More than 60 Faculty Fellows from an array of academic disciplines work together to advance the Institute’s mission, which includes the improvement of all schools—public, private, and faith-based. The Institute goals include: promoting excellence in educational leadership; achieving excellence in research; and building excellence in innovative practices. Innovations intended to make a difference at the state level include the Research Center on Educational Policy partnerships with Indiana and Michigan, as well as Notre Dame’s administration of the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program for Indiana (AP-TIP IN), which bolsters public high school students’ readiness for college and careers in the STEM disciplines.

In addition to the Research Center, the Institute supports these units: the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity (CREO), and the Education, Schooling, and Society undergraduate minor (ESS).

The Research Center on Educational Policy will be a key force in establishing partnerships and collaborations that address today’s most urgent school and classroom challenges. See more information at http://iei.nd.edu. Hear more details from Berends about the Indiana and Michigan partnerships in a podcast interview at http://learningmatters.tv.