Thomas W. Brock, a higher education expert at the research firm MDRC, has been tapped as the new commissioner for the National Center for Education Research, in a move that brings the leadership of the Institute of Education Sciences back to full strength.
The federal Education Department's research agency has been plagued in recent years with protracted leadership vacancies in its research centers. Brock's predecessor Lynn Okagaki left in August 2011; Elizabeth Albro has been and will continue to serve as acting commissioner until Brock comes on board Jan. 14.
Brock, now the director of MDRC's young adults and postsecondary education division, is known for his research on community college initiatives, including Achieving the Dream, which studied ways to improve low-income students' college-completion rates; and the evaluation of Completion by Design, a program by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to boost supports for at-risk students in college.
Prior to his work at New York City-based MDRC, Brock evaluated education, youth services and arts grants for the Wallace Foundation, also in the Big Apple. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from Pitzer College in Los Angeles, a master's degree in public administration from New York's Columbia University, and a doctorate in social welfare from the University of California, Los Angeles.
"His breadth of research knowledge and experience in the postsecondary realm will serve IES well as we continue to advance and support top-notch research aimed at finding solutions to important education problems," said IES Director John Q. Easton, in a statement.