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laftllld ~ Louise of hUlion 1 The organizational design and illustrative research ex- amples we have proposed for the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) are shaped by our key objectives: building deep and reciprocal connections between practice and research; producing a research program noted for its quality, and the accumulation of useful and usable knowledge; building talent for this collaborative work in the research and practice communities; and having impact on what teachers do, how schools operate, and foremost on student learning. Our search for ways to promote research and development of high quality that focuses on important issues of educational practice has led to the design of a program that is intended to influence many parts of the education system: the development of curricula, materials, and technology that support improved practice; strengthening the curriculum and expanding the re- search roles of colleges of education; improving professional development; organizational and system change to support im- proved practice; and, not least, the creation of mechanisms and incentives for teachers and researchers to work together to im- prove student learning. Much of our work here in developing a prototype organiza- tion design and research agenda is intended to illustrate the potential of a SERP enterprise to change significantly the nature of education research and development and its interaction with educational practice. To take our illustrative effort one step further, the committee attempts to breathe life into the design by envisioning these interactions in progress a decade into the future. The vision, elaborated in Box 5.1, is meant to suggest the role of SERP both in maintaining a productive focus on a pro- gram of research and development, and in responding flexibly C H A R T I N G A C O U R S E O F A C T I O N 107
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board; BOX 5.1 A Scenario: SERP A Decade After Launch What might SERP become under circumstances of adequate funding, good administration early in its process, and success in attracting high-caliber personnel? We would expect three to five networks to exist by the end of a decade, each working on several strands of research. We look here only at the learning and instruction network (LIN). Needless to say, any of the specifics might well be substituted by others, but this hypothetical exercise is meant to give a sense of the envisioned development, scope, and organization of SERP activities. The SERP-LIN intramural research team consists of 15 senior scholars, a mix of eminent researchers and recognized, reflective practitioners, who provide leadership to the entire package of activities and carry out a part of the SERP-LIN research themselves. This team is responsible for the following: · agenda setting within the broad priorities set by the Director and approved by the governing soliciting partnerships with field sites and with external research teams; managing the interfaces between the research being done by SERP internally and externally; implementing and overseeing the SERP fellows programs designed to nurture and educate the new generation of educational practitioners and researchers (i.e., postdoctoral to midcareer research- ers learning how to conduct research in ways compatible with the complexities of practice, as well as reflective practitioners learning about research and its use). As part of its research effort, the SERP-LIN research team is pursuing a research agenda with a particular site, a large urban school district. In collaboration with the leadership of that district, a site-specific research agenda has been identified that maps onto the parts of the larger network agenda of greatest interest to these schools. The school district has expressed the following priorities: · to focus on improving student learning in the domain of middle school reading comprehension across the various domains, including English, science, and history; · to link more closely to a large nearby teacher education program so that preservice teachers are prepared specifically for the curriculum, standards, and student body present in the district; · to link professional development programs more organically to the preservice preparation and to involve both accomplished practitioners and teacher education faculty in overseeing it; and · to improve capabilities in the school district central office in using information that derives from tracking student progress. The following research agenda, negotiated with the field site, is tightly associated with these priorities: Evaluation of instructional approaches to support reading comprehension in the early grades. Since reading comprehension in middle school builds on proficiencies developed in earlier years, this site will participate in field testing of new early reading curricula developed in several extramural research programs that integrate instruction in decoding, listening comprehension, vocabulary development, and early writing. The curricula differ in (a) the time spent on explicit vocabulary instruction, (b) the time spent in oral reading in the classroom, and (c) whether explicit attention is given to metacognitive strategy development. SERP agrees to prepare the teachers and provide support during implementation. The district agrees to randomly assign teachers to the different curricula and to randomly assign students in a particular school and grade to teachers' classrooms. The school will record the data needed by the research team, and SERP will analyze those data. 2. Instruction in teaching reading comprehension for middle school practitioners. Recent research and development regarding reading comprehension within disciplines has led to the development of teaching protocols to support comprehension. The SERP headquarters research team has monitored the research findings and is interested in conducting research on the teacher requirements for effectively using the instructional protocols. SERP and the schools have negotiated a mutually beneficial agenda in which professional development in reading comprehension instruction for middle school teachers is conducted under experimental conditions. In the first two years, the SERP-LIN team will design the research to test 108 STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
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· ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ hypotheses about approaches to supporting conceptual change in teachers, the hours of professional development required, and the benefits of doing professional development before versus spaced through- out the period of implementation. In years three and four, the hypotheses will be formally tested. The training will be funded through a SERP project grant, and the school district will pay for the teachers' time spent in training through a state subsidy program for professional development. The school district agrees that teachers in each discipline will be randomly assigned to the different training approaches. The school will collect data on student achievement in reading comprehension throughout. 3. Teacher education faculty in the nearby university are being involved in the research activities so they become more familiar with the district's needs and goals; highly experienced teachers from the district are given release time to coteach methods courses and to help supervise the student teachers from the program. Changes in the teacher education curriculum are being monitored by researchers, and a comprehensive assessment of preservice teacher knowledge implemented three years ago is being systematically administered to all teacher education students and newly hired teachers on a yearly basis, so that individual progress can be monitored. It is hoped that ultimately a task force will take on a more extensive revision of the teacher-education curriculum. 4. A teacher-career approach to professional development (including induction year support, involvement in regular peer learning groups for three years, and assumption of responsibilities as a coach and ultimately master teacher later on) is being implemented and evaluated. 5. Having established a system for tracking individual student progress for the district, the research team is now exploring various methods for giving teachers and administrators access to student progress records. Various alternatives are being explored, including providing teachers with hand-held assessment systems to encourage regular assessment and automatic recording of the data for uploading, providing specialists who incorporate reviewing student progress into the regular professional development sessions, and providing an interactive web site for the data so that teachers can explore their own students' records indepen- dently. After a period of initial exploration and surveying responses to prototype systems, one of these systems will be more widely implemented and evaluated. This research undertaking by the learning and instruction network is clearly large in scope and varied in the range of activities needed to accomplish its aims. In fact, the many topics go beyond the expertise available at SERP headquarters. Because none of the intramural research team members is expert in the field of middle school reading, a number of experts in reading comprehension were commissioned early on to work on the definition and assessment of reading comprehension in that age range. To build on several facets of their work, the collaboration of a team of reading comprehension researchers from a university in the Midwest was then solicited. That team, the first extramural research team in SERP-LIN, was given resources to develop and pilot test instructional protocols for reading comprehension. The SERP home team also established a relationship with a network of Catholic parochial schools in their state, so that the new research team would be able to engage in pilot testing and observation with a student body similar to that of the urban school district SERP-LIN is already collaborating with. Because SERP-LIN's collaborating urban district serves many students who are speakers of Vietnamese, Khmer, Cantonese, and Gujarati, it was deemed necessary to develop some particular expertise about Asian immigrant populations and Asian-language speakers. Accordingly, SERP issued a request for proposals for a collaborating research team. A team of anthropologists and linguists from several universities in California was selected from the half dozen respondents. They in turn established a California research program focused on school achievement and second language learning among Asian immigrant students, which qualified to become an affiliate of SERP-LIN. They obtained funding from the University of California system to initiate a research project to document the academic trajectories of highly successful Asian immigrant students attending state universities, as well as Asian immigrant high school graduates who have been somewhat less successful academically on state university campuses. They are now extending their work downward by tracking the younger siblings of the university attendees, who are still in middle or high school or who have dropped out of school. As the work focused on Asian immigrant students started to generate publications, SERP received unsolic- ited proposals from other teams around the country arguing that the achievement gap between European- C H A R T I N G A C O U R S E O F A C T I O N 109
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American and Hispanic or black students deserved focused attention from SERP, despite the fact that such issues were not particularly salient in the district with which SERP-LIN was working. None of the unsolicited proposals was deemed of sufficient quality to merit adoption by SERP. Because of the importance of the issue, however, SERP research staff consequently established a list of priorities for research on the achievement gap and invited submission of formal proposals from teams that incorporated both researchers and practitioners and that specified the site for the work. Ultimately, a well- established network of smaller school districts in which the achievement gap has been well documented for some years, teamed with a consortium of research partners, won the competition and was established as an official field site in the SERP undertaking. Among the commitments made by the field site was to collect data on black and Hispanic students that would parallel in some respects that being collected by the group focused on Asian immigrant students, and that instructional protocols developed and tested by SERP-LIN would be the basis for any particular focus on middle school reading or high school science in the networked districts. Other school district-research team partnerships that had been working on the issue of the achievement gap petitioned to be affiliated with SERP as well. After SERP headquarters carefully reviewed their leadership, demographics, commitment to research-based practice, and researcher quality, two of these were offered affiliate status (which offers participation in the SERP accumulation, vetting, and communication activities). Three others were turned down. Regular exchange among the four major locations where SERP work is being done is maintained by virtue of monthly web-based discussions for all participants, regular conference calls among the principle investigators and major project leaders at all sites, and face-to-face meetings every six months. to the emerging needs and interests of the variety of partici- pants whom it seeks to bring together. GETTING TO LAUNCH What will it take to get from where we are today to a well- functioning SERP? We begin by grappling with the very diffi- cult task of estimating the initial costs of building a SERP. Plac- ing a price tag on start-up is challenging because so many of the decisions made by the funding partners will have order-of- magnitude effects on program costs. As a hypothetical exercise, the committee commissioned an estimate of costs given a very rough and quite conservative set of assumptions about the pace of start-up, the number of networks (i.e., two), and the size of projects within networks. The reasons for the conservatism are two: first, the capacity for the work we envision will need to be created, and, second, the commitment of resources to research and development is likely to take some years to build. The illustrative SERP research agenda, described in Chapter 4 and spelled out fully in a companion report (National Research Council, 2003b), envisions a breadth and scale of work that two STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
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would have a genuine influence on practice. To do the proposed work well will require joining research and product develop- ment designed to improve learning and teaching to research and development designed to improve schools and systems. Doing such linked work is complex. It requires the mobilization of many talents, much effort, and much more money than has ever been invested in educational research and development. How quickly the capacity and resources to do that work can be built, however, will be determined through negotiations among the variety of decision makers who must commit resources to the effort. We assume that during that period, the scale of work would build toward, but not yet come close to, that envisioned in the agenda. Over a seven-year period of program development, the costs for the start-up program are estimated at about S500 mil- lion (see Appendix B for estimates and assumptions. Early efforts, as the pane! report indicates, could build on areas in which substantial progress has already been made in order to support productive outcomes in the near term. In the Tong run, as capacity to undertake the coherent but very broad work envisioned is built, we would expect the investment to grow substantially. How much of that investment will be new, how much can come from pools made available to support state efforts to introduce and evaluate research-based practices through the No Child Left Behind legislation, and how much can come from redirecting resources currently allocated to activities that can be carried out more effectively in the context of a SERP organiza- tion, is not yet known. While the size of the investment envi- sioned may be daunting at the start, given the meager funds traditionally allocated for education research and development and current fiscal strains, even 0.5 to 1 percent of a year's budget for elementary and secondary education would yield two to four times the amount estimated for the first seven years. For Committee member David Cohen comments: This report calls for an am- bitious program to improve students' learning by improving knowledge about learning, teaching, and schooling. The proposed work is badly needed, and if done well, would yield many benefits. In today's fiscal crisis, it is easy to worry that frankness about the costs of such an endeavor could defeat efforts to get it started. One reason that previous efforts of this sort have done so poorly is that great hopes were saddled with trivial budgets. It would be a pity if this sad history were to be repeated. C H A R T I N G A C O U R S E O F A C T I O N 1 1 1
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any sector of the economy, this is a relatively small rate of investment in research and development. Getting to the point of undertaking research and develop- ment will require an initial effort to build the coalition that will eventually support SERP. Our proposal for the launch phase draws from the history of the Education Commission of the States. To take Conant's idea of a state compact (see Chapter 3) and make it a reality, two foundations (Carnegie and Ford) funded the creation of the compact. Their contributions allowed for support of Terry Sanford, former governor of North Caro- lina, to work with the leadership of the states to form the com- pact, as well as for staff to write the terms of the compact and to begin making organizational arrangements. States joined with a commitment to contribute to the funding of Education Commis- sion of the States further down the road, when it was a function- ing organization that would provide benefits to its membership. But the initial decision to join the compact was not tied to an immediate allocation of funds. We see the separation of a com- mitment to the idea and the allocation of state funds to be equally important today, particularly given the immediate strain on state budgets. While Sanford worked to create the state compact, support was garnered at the same time from the U.S. Congress, which ratified the creation of the compact. Similarly, the SERP launch should involve an active effort to engage the federal govern- ment and its education research agencies in the formation of the institution. In the committee's view, support from foundations for the launch of SERP will be critical to its success. The investment we envision will be substantial, although it is loaded toward later years, when we would expect state contributions to phase in. Still, launch would likely require the commitment of multiple foundations and the support of private businesses, the U.S. Congress, and federal agencies might be sought as well. If the compact can be successfully formed itself a major element in proof of concept the foundations and other early contributors will have contributed to a fundamental, Tong-term change in the role of research and development in the delivery of education in the United States. Because education is widely held to be the route to upward mobility and the foundation of American de- mocracy, we think the vision of SERP should have broad appeal to funders. And in contributing to a SERP launch, they will have ~2 STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
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supported the creation of an infrastructure that will facilitate their contribution to effective educational reform in the future. While garnering commitments will be the most immediate task, there are several others that will be required for successful launch of the Strategic Education Research Partnership: 1. Recruiting Key Leaders. Identifying a first-rate executive director, the research and development department director, and the co-directors for at least the first re- search network will be critical to sending a strong signal regarding the quality of the SERP effort. 2. Establishing Relationships with a Small Set of Field Sites. As suggested in Chapter 4, we expect early field sites to consist of schools, districts, and schools of educa- tion that are already comfortable with, and interested in, partnering for purposes of research. But even with the most interested and experienced partners, the terms and arrangements for participation must be carefully negotiated during the start-up period. 3. Inaugural Programs. Once the leadership of SERP is recruited, initial research and development program commitments will need to be made. A report of the separate SERP Pane! on Learning and Instruction pro- vides an illustrative agenda for one network. Our com- mittee also commissioned a very preliminary synthe- sis of the research literature on organizational change and the transfer of knowledge in organizations2 as a modest first step in the development of a research agenda for a schools-as-organizations research net- work. These two illustrative research agendas provide potential seed corn for the inaugural SERP research programs. Launching a venture of this sort requires the imagi- nation to see possibilities that lie beyond the horizon, a realistic vision of what can be done now, and a sen- sible plan to get from here to there. Those who fund the launch phase must recognize that one of the first tasks is to frame the inaugural agenda in ways that 2Available from the National Research Council, Committee on a Strategic Education Research Partnership, upon request. C H A R T I N G A C O U R S E O F A C T I O N 113
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will enable high-quaTity and productive work at a level of effort that matches the early resources, and then to use that to build up to the ambitious program recom- mended here and in the planning documents. Choos- ing particular early commitments will require an im- mediate effort to negotiate priorities among the new leadership, the first board of governors, and a newly formed advisory board. Having broad buy-in at the outset will be important to the ultimate success of SERP. We think the time spent in deliberation among these groups during the first two years of start-up will be well worth the investment. 4. Legal and Organizational Specifications. As the particu- lars of the SERP organization are worked out among the major founding partners, legal and organizational specifications will need to be drawn up. As the SERP coalition comes together, the partners will make final decisions about governance and organizational struc- ture. The first-round decisions concern the nature of the new venture. But second-level issues also need to be addressed. Would SERP benefit by being housed early on in an existing host institution so as to take advantage of established grant-making, personnel, and other support functions? If so, which institutions are viable candidates? Other legal questions would need to be answered as well. How would SERP deal with intellectual property rights and patents? These questions must be thought through carefully if SERP is to maintain the perception of a worId-class institution and avoid financial con- flicts of interest. Attracting Other Partners. The SERP initiative is seek- ing to generate new sources of support and to bring new players to the table. The degree of interest in improving education gives us confidence that the pri- vate sector can be engaged much more heavily than heretofore in supporting a focused program of appli- cations-oriented education research. In addition to at- tracting new philanthropic partners from business, SERP will work with business leaders to see if there are productive ways to involve private investment capi- tal. ~ ~4 STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
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6. Wide and Deep Consultation. A central tenet of the SERP initiative is that fruitful collaborations among the re- search, practice, and policy communities are the re- quired building blocks for making schools, classrooms, and teachers receptive to research and research useful to them. The launch team will need to give these com- munities a strong voice in shaping the enterprise. Ma- jor consultations will therefore be needed to collect the concerns and suggestions of the interested parties, to allow for adjustments in SERP design and process as useful suggestions are received, and to build the active public and private support needed to launch and op- erate a successful Strategic Education Research Part- nership. · ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ TAKING OFF This committee, and the committee that preceded it, brought a great deal of skepticism to the table: skepticism about the ability to focus researchers on work that is relevant to practice, about getting practitioners to use research knowledge, and about the ability to create change in so complex, and behavior depen- dent, a system. We were confronted with a sobering history of failed efforts to improve education research and development, with an education research base with a weak reputation for quality, and by examples of some high-quaTit~v research and development that has failed to significantly penetrate the edu- cation system. Yet this committee, like the committee that preceded it, concludes its work with optimism. Failures of the past and disappointments of the present, we believe, have identifiable contributors. It is possible to take a different approach. The SERP proposal is indeed different: different in its emphasis on use-inspired research carried out in school settings, different in the partnership between research and practice that infuses ev- ery aspect of the proposed effort, and different in the coherence of research and development program it envisions. Program coherence means that research and product devel- opment would be joined, so that tested ideas are incorporated into teaching tools, and effective teaching practices and pro- C H A R T I N G A C O U R S E O F A C T I O N 1 1 5
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grams support new hypotheses about learning and instruction that can be incorporated into the shared knowledge base. The emphasis on program coherence would also be seen in the integration of research and development on learning, instruc- tion, assessment, teacher education, school organization, and education policy so that new knowledge can be channeled into improved outcomes. Finally, program coherence would mean that promising research and development would be carried through stages of evaluation, replication in a range of school environments, and taking innovations to scale in iterative pro- cesses that spur continual improvement. Doing such linked work will require the mobilization of many talents and resources. It will take sustained commitment for a decade to start it well, and continued, steady commitment to build a mature research and development capacity for educa- tion. A sustained effort to build a coherent research and develop- ment infrastructure in education has not failed in the past. It has simply never been tried. With this report SERP ends as a National Academies activ- ity and begins a new chapter. Conceived and nurtured as an initiative of the National Academies, its future success now must hinge on the will and resources of a broad coalition of partners committed to improving student learning in the United States. The National Academies recognize the critical impor- tance of improving education in this nation and therefore stand ready to support the partners in SERP as they move forward to shape the SERP agenda and implement the bold ideas set forth in this report. ~ ~6 ~ . STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
Representative terms from entire chapter: