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Ford School expands scope of education policy research

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Over the past year, significant new research and post-doctoral training grants added to the already active slate of education policy initiatives underway at the Ford School.

In May, Susan M. Dynarski and Brian A. Jacob received a $250,000 grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation to study charter schools in Michigan.

Over the next two years Dynarski and Jacob will conduct a rigorous, Michigan-wide analysis of the effect of charter schools on student performance and postsecondary schooling decisions, including college entry, choice, and completion. Their study, "Measuring and Understanding the Effectiveness of Michigan Charter Schools," will encompass Michigan's 242 charter schools and more than 110,000 students.

In February, a federal grant enabled the launch of a new postdoctoral training program at the Ford School and the School of Education, providing fellows with rigorous training in the education research sciences.

The program will train a total of five postdoctoral students, each for a 2-year fellowship. The five-year, $687,000-grant from the U.S. Department of Education took effect March 1.

"Smart policy rests on solid evidence. We are working with data from Michigan, as well as other states and school districts, to find out what works in education," Dynarski said. "The training program will expand the community of researchers ready to do this important work."

Dynarski and Jacob serve as the principal investigators. The training program will provide research experience in the areas of teacher quality; mathematics and science education; organization and management of schools and districts; education policy, finance and systems; education technology; and analysis of longitudinal data to support state and local education reform.

The new grants and programs are extensions of a growing education policy focus at the Ford School.

In spring 2010, the Ford School announced a $5.9 million federal grant to study state education reforms. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University—in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education—are using the funding to assess two education reforms designed to promote college attendance and workplace success.

The Ford School received the grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences to study the effects of the Michigan Merit Curriculum and the Michigan Promise Scholarship on student outcomes. Researchers from the Ford School and U-M's School of Education will work with investigators at MSU's College of Education on the project, to be known as the Michigan Consortium for Education Research.

"We are particularly interested in learning whether these reforms are affecting students differently based on their socioeconomic status and other factors, and examining how schools have responded to the policy," said Brian Jacob, the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy at the Ford School and director of the Center on Local, State, and Urban Policy.

And in the fall of 2007, Jacob launched the Education Policy Initiative (EPI) at CLOSUP. EPI has included public events regarding the latest academic research on education reform; research conferences for policymakers, practitioners and academics; research projects; and the new education research consortium with U-M, MSU, and the state of Michigan.

Look for more about the school's education policy-related research, teaching, and impact in the fall edition of State & Hill.