Public schools nationwide are monitoring students’ achievements to discover areas needing improvement. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, some of those solutions are coming from joint efforts involving education researchers and practitioners.
This was one of the topics addressed in Thursday’s AASA conference panel, moderated by Robin Wisniewski, director of education systems improvement at Research Triangle Institute International in North Carolina. She was joined by Wesley Boykin, executive director of the Center of Excellence at Voorhees College in Denmark, N.C., in discussing research-practice partnerships.
Partnerships between schools and researchers have become increasingly popular with ESSA in place. “Partnerships are collectives motivated by a common goal,” said panelist Paul LaMahieu, senior vice president for programs at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “Both parties join together to get what they need and be influenced by each other.”
Much of the panel’s discussion related to systemwide improvements. “The primary aim has always been continuous improvement,” said Andrew Houlihan, superintendent in Union County, N.C. “From the very beginning, it was about how to help the school system use research to get better. That will continue to be the primary goal of the partnership.”
With ESSA in place, school boards are forming partnerships with researchers to solve districtwide problems. Working with experts on a specific issue can lead to an effective solution, but each party has to be open to the other’s ideas, Houlihan added.
“We all have our own views of the system and we think ours is the most compelling,” said panelist Richard Sedar, director of education partnerships at RTI International. “Being able to bring in those multiple perspectives and seeing where to use them takes time. The payoff is not immediate, but it is down the road.”
These partnerships build capacities to access key takeaways from research to effectively implement them into school systems. For many, this means restructuring their districts’ instructional systems.
“If you want genuinely to improve knowledge, you have to respect the knowledge practitioners have,” LeMahieu said. “It’s from there we understand the problem and how the system produces the problem. Now, there’s a common framework people can work with and contribute to achieving a common goal.”
(By Kendall Lawson, a junior mass communication major at Xavier University in New Orleans)