Collaborating with Academics, Institutes, and Schools, Researchers Bring Facts to Educational Policy Debate
Education is by its very nature collaborative,” said Mary Brabeck, dean of the School. “The partnerships that our research teams cultivate allow us to translate our findings into practices and policies that have demonstrable effects on student performance.”
At Steinhardt’s Research Alliance for the Public Schools and its Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, researchers are finding that external partnerships allow them to better to leverage their expertise to study and influence issues central to education today.
Academic Researchers Working Together to Improve School Policies
Richard Arum, professor of sociology and education, was instrumental in launching the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, an independent applied research center housed at NYU Steinhardt and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“I saw a need for a place where top academic researchers could come together to study public school practice,” he said.
Inspired by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, which undertakes rigorous evaluations of Chicago public school policy, Arum brought together a coalition of local stakeholders, including the New York City Department of Education, school reform organizations. and community and business groups. The goal of theResearch Alliance, he said, is to use rigorous empirical evidence “to help improve school policies in New York City, so policy makers don’t just go from fad to fad.”
A Study of Teacher Turnover in Middle Grades
With a grant funded by the Ford Foundation, the Research Alliance, led by Executive Director Jim Kemple, is studying teacher attrition in high-poverty middle schools in New York City, examining the factors associated with teacher turnover in the middle grades and how it influences school functioning and student achievement.
The study reveals that more than half of the teachers who entered New York City middle schools between 2002 and 2009 left these schools within three years. Of those teachers, nearly 60 percent left the New York City public school system altogether and 23 percent either moved to schools that did not include the middle grades or took on non-teaching positions within the school system.
“We find that certain malleable characteristics of schools – such as schools’ size and learning environment – are associated with turnover,” said Will Marinell, research associate and the study’s lead author. “This finding suggests that policy makers and practitioners may be able to influence turnover
Kemple says, “the Teacher Turnover project is a truly collaborative effort between several institutions in New York City — the NYC Department of Education, Columbia Teachers College, and Baruch College. This kind of partnership is the hallmark of the Research Alliance’s approach to building evidence about education issues in New York City.”
Scholars at Steinhardt Working Directly with Schools
Pedro Noguera, who serves as executive director of NYU Steinhardt’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, has partnered with Bank Street College of Education and Montclair State University to create and implement an innovative plan for improving outcomes of poor children living in the central ward of Newark, New Jersey
“Public schools are the safety net for many poor children,” says Pedro Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education. “But we have blatantly unequal schools, where we spend the most money on the students who have the most and the least on the students who need it most.”
With funding from the Ford and Victoria Foundations, Noguera is bringing together community-based organizations to work in seven high-poverty public schools in Newark. His approach, inspired by Geoffrey Canada’s efforts with Harlem Children’s Zone, is to offer “wrap around” services, such as health and social services, directly in the school buildings for the ward’s 3,200 children and their parents.
Creating Personalized, Timely Learning Plans and Studying the Results
Using a case management approach, the research team is engaged in working with 3rd, 8th, and 11th graders in the schools, creating personalized learning plans for each student. There are professional development programs planned for teachers, as well.
In June 2011, Central High School, the anchor school in the New Global Village Zone, experienced the largest increase in its math and literacy scores of any school in Newark.
“The goal of such an approach is to carefully monitor the educational performance of each student to insure that their learning needs are met and so that interventions can be applied in a timely manner,” Noguera said.