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State 'Matchmakers' Can Improve Education Research Partnerships, Report Says

The Every Student Succeeds Act calls for states to take a bigger lead in helping districts use education research to improve schools, but many states have limited capacity. 

In a new report, the progressive-leaning think tank Center for American Progress points to the Maryland Education Development Collaborative, or "EdCo," which has been created —though not yet funded—to fund and support research-practitioner partnerships throughout the state. It's the first such statewide project approved, but Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island have been considering similar "state capacity-building centers," the report finds. 

Co-authors Ulrich Boser and Abel McDaniels of CAP argue that while local, long-term research-practice partnerships like the Consortium for Chicago School Research have become more popular nationwide, they generally remain focused on large urban areas, and can be hard to get started in smaller communities, even when they have access to higher education and other research groups.

"it's a lot easier for [research-practice partnerships] to get funding for specific projects," McDaniels said. "It can be very difficult for them to come by funding to get started with physical equipment or time to work on building understanding and data-sharing agreements."

The report recommends that state centers boost education research capacity and use by:

  • Creating ways to match local school districts to researchers studying similar problems. "For lack of a better term, it's sort of like having the matchmaker, the OKCupid of the research-practice partnership," Boser said. "School districts struggle with certain issues and those issues tend to feel very localized. If we talk about English-language learners, we don't speak about them like they are all the same; the struggles might be very different if a student is coming from Puerto Rico as opposed to Cambodia. So what can we do to help connect the school district that is thinking through a local issue with a broader field of research?"
  • Calling for joint proposals from researchers and practitioners, with an eye toward building ongoing partnerships;
  • Awarding grants focused on building infrastructure for local research and helping the partnerships secure other money, including philanthropic funding, to sustain them; and
  • Creating networks of research partnerships statewide to spread findings and test ideas quickly.



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