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Chicago Education Community Joins Forces to Increase Focus on Research

March 19, 2007

Chicago—More than 50 representatives from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), foundations, higher education research, and education organizations recently gathered to discuss ways to better link research to the needs of schools and education practitioners. Hosted by REL Midwest at Learning Point Associates, the Chicago Education Research Community Breakfast Forum helped set the stage for continued conversation about conducting research that is relevant to teachers, principals, and policymakers.

"Our goal is to provide opportunities for dialogue that leads to action," said Gina Burkhardt, chief executive officer of Learning Point Associates, a nonprofit education consulting organization based in Chicago. "We want to ensure that rigorous research findings are accessible and applicable to education stakeholders to push education reform beyond compliance toward innovation."

The discussion focused on recommendations contained in a 2006 report by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching titled Reconnecting Education and Foundations: Turning Good Intentions Into Educational Capital. The report’s primary recommendation focus on building educational capital—ensuring that research projects are designed to address gaps in education research and that knowledge from the research is transferred to practitioners and policymakers in meaningful, relevant ways.

Ray Bacchetti, Ph.D., a scholar-in-residence at The Carnegie Foundation and coeditor of the report, defined five prerequisites for building educational capital: to ground knowledge building in reality and to build upon other relevant research, to identify nonnegotiable core concepts and values, to ensure that mechanisms are in place to sustain the effort, to build in assessment at every stage, and to encourage interconnectedness with other primary reform objectives.

Michael McPherson, Ph.D., president of The Spencer Foundation and one of five panelists, cautioned that promoting the use of research evidence to strengthen education practice must go beyond simply translating researchers’ findings; it also must include ways those findings can be put into practice. "The issue with regard to translation is that practitioners have many sources of knowledge but struggle with how to fit well-developed research into their existing circumstances. What they need is usable evidence," said Dr. McPherson.

Other panelists included John Easton, Ph.D., of the Consortium for Chicago School Research; Victoria Chou, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Chicago; Daniel Bugler, Ph.D., of Chicago Public Schools; and Steven Cantrell, Ph.D., of REL Midwest. Both Dr. Easton and Dr. Bugler commented on the need to support growing educational capital, especially with respect to CPS, and for continuing to strengthen the communication and collaboration between districts and researchers so that research is aligned with district priorities.

"Collaboration is critical. I can’t think of a single partnership we have with a university that doesn’t involve foundation support," said Dr. Bugler, chief research, evaluation, and accountability officer for CPS. "It is useful and important to have these intentional conversations about how we collaborate so we can be more effective in our joint efforts."

Dr. Bacchetti applauded the Chicago education research community for starting the conversation on making better connections. "I’m very encouraged by this conversation. The problems are formidable but the key is getting started," he said. "I think we’re asking the right kind of questions."

Learning Point Associates also announced it is currently developing a compendium of research undertaken on behalf of the Chicago Public Schools between 2001 and 2006. Based on positive reaction from forum attendees, the compendium will be released later this year as a resource to education researchers and those investing in school reform efforts in Chicago and elsewhere.

About Learning Point Associates
Learning Point Associates is a nonprofit educational organization with more than 20 years of direct experience working with and for educators and policymakers to transform education systems and student learning. Our vision is an education system that works for all learners, and our mission is to deliver the knowledge, strategies, and results to help educators and policymakers make research-based decisions that produce sustained improvement.

Learning Point Associates manages a diversified portfolio of work ranging from direct consulting assignments to major federal contracts and grants. Our professional staff of 150 continues to grow as our organization expands both nationally and internationally, with offices in Naperville, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Since 1984, Learning Point Associates has operated the regional educational laboratory serving the Midwest—initially known as the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory® (NCREL®) and now known as REL Midwest.

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