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Steeped in Policy, with a Heart for Practice

Martin West
Photo: Matt Weber

With wide-ranging and policy-minded research that has focused on the effects of charter school attendance on cognitive and noncognitive skills, the use of data in schools, and the influence of pay on teacher quality, Professor Martin West has focused his career on showing what’s working in education — and where reform is necessary.

Marty West may be an influential policy researcher, a D.C. veteran, and an education media pro — but he most treasures his role as teacher.

As editor in chief of the influential education policy journal Education Next, housed at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), West connects the world of academic research to the worlds of policy and practice. The journal, known for its annual poll of American opinion on education policy, is frequently cited in policy debates and was found to be “the most frequently mentioned education journal” in a 2015 Educational Researcher study of news media coverage of education research.

“I think our team has demonstrated that there is a robust audience for high-quality research, if that research is presented in a compelling, accessible way,” says West. Recent research in EdNext has looked at charter schools, teacher strikes, and teacher quality in the face of coronavirus. An upcoming survey conducted by West and his colleagues will track American families’ experiences and attitudes as their schools reopen amid the pandemic.

Deputy director of the HKS’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, West has influenced education policy as the non-resident senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and senior education policy adviser to the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. In 2015, he testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on fixing No Child Left Behind. Since 2019, he has been a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, the body that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Named the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at Harvard in 2019, West has been HGSE’s sought-after expert when it comes to predicting and interpreting the impact of federal policy changes, new education secretaries, or presidential elections. But it is in using his research expertise and work in the field of education policy to prepare future policymakers at HGSE that has been most fulfilling. “That mix of experiences informs my teaching at HGSE, which is the most meaningful and rewarding part of my job,” he says.

“Marty is not only an accomplished scholar and leader in education policy, but a valued teacher and mentor to our students,” said Dean Bridget Long. “His work has impacted, and will continue to impact, the way that we understand the efficacy of education policies and reforms in the United States.” – Sarah Garfinkel

Learn More and Connect

Read about the results of the latest Education Next poll of public opinion.

Listen to a Harvard EdCast with Martin West on the impact of teachers strikes in the United States.

Watch the Askwith Forum, "Charter Schools: Expanding Opportunity or Reinforcing Divides?"

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