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Researchers Seek to Adapt to Changes Afoot in Education

Queenstown, Md.
For the research and policy watchers at the Knowledge Alliance's Big Ideas meeting winding up here today, sea changes were building in education even before the economic malaise that has tightened education budgets.

The annual gathering of about 80 policymakers and national research group leaders focused on how education research can ease the burden for schools of limited resources, changing student demographics, and rapidly shifting technology.

Mark Elgart, the founder and CEO of Advance Education, an education accreditation group, noted that 25 state education chiefs took their positions within the last 15 months, and the need for technology in schools has become more urgent to improve students' career readiness just as funding for infrastructure and training is drying up.

"We're in the midst of a tremendous period of uncertainty," he said. "Some organizations are becoming static ... to wait out the storm, but others are in development mode to be ready to jump when it starts to move again."

Netty Legters of Johns Hopkins University's Center for the Social Organization of Schools said she thinks education researchers need to become better grounded in daily classroom practice to keep up with changes in the field. Educators and policy makers frequently argue that a study intended to answer a problem from the field becomes obsolete by the time it is released, or that its resulting intervention doesn't work when translated to real classrooms. "I see too much of the prototype working better than iterations in the field," she said. "That needs to change."

Many participants agreed, and there was a sense that future education research may, both for budget and quality reasons, become more integrated into ongoing school improvement projects. Louis Gomez, a senior partner at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, also warned that researchers need clearer definitions of how to collect evidence of both effectiveness and budget value when working with educators.

"We should challenge the assumption that we should do more with less. If we could demonstrate that we could do more with more, we would probably attract more investment," he added. "The sea change we should see is to get policymakers to understand that."

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