The Research Alliance conducts rigorous studies on topics that matter to the City’s public schools. We strive to advance equity and excellence in education by providing nonpartisan evidence about policies and practices that promote students' development and academic success.
The Research Alliance fulfills three core functions:
- Conducting rigorous, applied research in collaboration with policymakers, educators, and other stakeholders.
- Maintaining a unique archive of longitudinal data on NYC schools and communities, to support ongoing research; and
- Communicating the results of our work to multiple audiences here in NYC and around the nation.
The Research Alliance is distinguished by a number of guiding principles and related organizational capacities. These include:
- A focus on one place—New York City;
In a district as large and diverse as NYC, understanding the local context is no small feat. Research Alliance staff have worked in a broad cross-section of NYC schools. We have relationships with educators, policymakers and community members in all five boroughs. We regularly participate in meetings and forums that help us stay abreast of emerging issues and conditions in the City’s schools.
- Genuine engagement with a diverse group of education stakeholders;
Historically, the work of education researchers has been largely disconnected from that of policymakers and practitioners. Research findings have often done little to influence policy or improve day-to-day practice in schools. The Research Alliance is one of a growing number of research-practice partnerships around the country attempting to bridge this divide.
We engage partners in all phases of our work—from setting research priorities, to developing studies, to interpreting and reporting on results. By actively collaborating with educators, school district officials and other public education stakeholders, the Research Alliance seeks to address the most pressing challenges facing NYC schools. We make a point of asking questions not only about whether education policies and practices are effective, but also about why, for whom and under what circumstances.
A formal data-sharing agreement with the NYC DOE enables Research Alliance staff and collaborators to conduct in-depth studies and analyses using large quantities of data from the City’s 1,700 public schools. We provide regular briefings about our work and publish our findings and recommendations in forms that are as accessible and useful as possible for both policymakers and practitioners.
- High standards of scientific rigor;
We address research questions using methods that meet the highest standards of education science. These methods maximize the validity and reliability of our findings. For example, when studying program or intervention effectiveness, we select research designs that support causal inferences about impacts on student and teacher outcomes, including, when possible, randomized controlled trials and regression discontinuity analyses. To examine the relationship between specific policies and student outcomes, we use statistical techniques, such as comparative interrupted time-series analysis, that minimize bias attributable to selection effects or unmeasured inputs. We use qualitative research to gain a rich understanding of the underlying reasons for a problem and to uncover specific school processes and relationships not apparent in quantitative data. We often address complex research topics with mixed-method studies that combine quantitative and qualitative methods. When we report findings, we explicitly address potential limitations, such as statistical bias and measurement imprecision. And we make sure that our conclusions and recommendations are always firmly grounded in the evidence resulting from our analyses. We also engage a variety of external partners to contribute to and help vet our work, including other researchers here at NYU, as well as experts from other universities and organizations across the city and country.
- Our longitudinal data archive, which is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind;
Large-scale quantitative research projects depend on procuring and preparing large data sets. When working on education issues, this can be particularly complicated and time consuming because of complex regulations about sharing student data, as well as important concerns about students’ privacy. School districts often do not have the time, resources, or expertise to process the vast amounts of data they collect. The Research Alliance helps solve these problems in NYC—by building, maintaining, and analyzing an archive of longitudinal data about NYC schools and communities. We have a formal agreement with the NYC DOE, which outlines the data we receive, the process we use to obtain it, and the security measures we use to keep it safe.
Our archive is the largest and most comprehensive education database in the country, including administrative, human resources, and School Survey data from the DOE, dating as far back as 1989. In addition, we compile information from public agencies, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Educational Statistics, and we collect survey and interview data through our own projects. Our ongoing communication with the DOE, as well as our team’s years of experience working with DOE data sets, allows us to quickly transform data into researcher-friendly formats, safely stripped of identifying information and suitable for analyses.
- Clear communication of findings to a range of audiences
We view communication as a continuous process that begins when we determine which research questions to address and culminates with sharing research findings. We build relationships with policymakers, educators and community groups and provide them with information they can use to do their jobs more effectively. For example, we create customized reports with data and recommendations for individual schools in many of our studies, helping them identify where they are succeeding and where they need to improve. We conduct regular briefings about the progress of our research, so our partners have ample opportunities to preview, ask questions about and provide feedback on our findings.
We also serve as a public resource, providing credible, independent analyses and information about the City’s school system. We regularly publish our findings and recommendations in reports, articles and policy briefs, which we work to make as clear and accessible as possible. We also disseminate our work through our website, social media and presentations to a range of audiences. Our staff is always willing to answer questions, frequently going out of their way to produce helpful information for students, policymakers, journalists and others.
- Multiple funding sources to help ensure our independence; and
While we work closely with a variety of education stakeholders, the Research Alliance carefully guards our independence. We receive funding from diverse public and private sources—supporting both specific projects and general operations. This helps ensure that we are not limited to projects that align with any particular agenda. As a research center housed at NYU, we benefit from a robust institutional infrastructure as well as a commitment to academic freedom and sharing of information and ideas. Our Steering Committee is characterized by a wide range of perspectives on key issues, including representatives from the NYC DOE, the teacher and administrator unions, academia, and business and community groups.
- A firm commitment to nonpartisanship.
Tied closely to our independence is our nonpartisan stance. This aspect of our mission is palpable among Research Alliance staff: We believe we are valuable to our partners, including the DOE and schools, precisely because we offer objective, nonpartisan analysis and recommendations.