Evidence and Ideas for Change New research collaborative tackles DC education issues in partnership with community
Sarah Rosen Wartell
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Across the country, an increasing number of cities are partnering with research organizations to produce evidence that can help policymakers shape actionable solutions to challenges facing local school systems. And now DC can count itself among the more than 50 places with these research-practice partnerships.

The new DC Education Research Collaborative, led by the Urban Institute, brings together world-class researchers to tackle the issues most relevant to students, families and education stakeholders like principals, teachers, and school administrators. Its aim? To provide independent research evidence to improve student achievement and advance equity in DC public and charter schools—and fill a knowledge gap: “We need data-focused and fact-based solutions to so many of our biggest challenges,” says DC Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn.*

Kihn was among the stakeholders who participated in a January meeting that formally kicked off the Collaborative, which is modeled after the success of research-practice partnerships in cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco.

The meeting brought together for the first time the Collaborative’s 15 Research Council members and 21-member Advisory Committee, representing all facets of the DC education community. The Advisory Committee will work over the next several months to lay out the Collaborative’s research agenda, but Kihn pointed to some of the questions he hopes the Collaborative might take on: “What role does school culture play on attendance? Do ninth grade academies really improve ninth graders’ success? Does high impact tutoring really improve learning? It’s those kinds of questions and more that I think we will end up focusing on together.”

Made up of students, teachers, parents, and leaders from DC public and charter schools, the Advisory Committee also provides input throughout the life of each project. Meanwhile, the Research Council focuses on ensuring rigor and that practitioners are involved from the beginning to the end of every research effort. That means working with practitioners to make sure published research is available in formats the community can access, understand, and use. It also includes collaborating with the Advisory Committee to offer trainings and other opportunities to help practitioners and communities understand what research findings mean for them and how they can apply the insights to effect change.

Such collaboration will be core to the success of the research-practice partnership, and it is what gives me such high hopes for this new effort. Other members of the Collaborative believe it holds great promise too. As elementary school principal Jasmine Brann, a member of the Advisory Committee, shared during last month’s meeting: “I hope we are able to inform relevant and impactful research agendas leading to increasingly positive lifelong outcomes for our children and all members of our community.”

I’m absolutely thrilled about what the Collaborative will provide: an opportunity to deliver insights, practices, and tools in a cooperative, equitable fashion so students in the nation’s capital are set up for success. And there’s no better person to lead the Collaborative than Josephine Bias Robinson, who joined Urban last year after working in federal agencies, the White House, area nonprofits, and the DC school system. An engaging consensus builder whose kids attended DC public schools, Bias Robinson brings deep experience in advancing the health, educational, and economic outcomes for children and families in the city.

I hope you will consider supporting this innovative effort and continue to stay tuned for more about the DC Education Research Collaborative as it gets off the ground.  

Research Areas Education
Policy Centers Center on Education Data and Policy
Cities Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV