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HGSE Announces Grant to Support Data Analysis Partnerships

The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University (CEPR) and the Harvard Graduate School of Education today announced a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch a new, national education initiative to help school district and state leaders increase student achievement and attainment through data-informed decision-making. The Strategic Data Project (SDP), based at Harvard, will help states and districts assemble and analyze their student and teacher data, providing policymakers with much needed information about trends on student graduation and college-going, the effectiveness of teachers and schools, and human capital management.

"If a district cannot identify its best teachers, does not know what forms of professional development are most effective, and does little to measure or manage the performance of schools, it should come as no surprise that student outcomes do not improve," said Jon Fullerton, executive director of CEPR. "Thoughtfully assembled and analyzed data are necessary to determine effective strategies to improve student outcomes; we expect that SDP will create a demand among leaders for policy-relevant analyses that enable informed decision-making."

SDP is housed at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, a university-wide research center dedicated to bringing academic researchers together with policymakers to ensure that research is solving real problems. "CEPR has been building bridges between academic researchers and practitioners across the education sector," said Kathleen McCartney, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "SDP represents a unique opportunity to build on this foundation, by working even more closely with districts and states to impact student achievement on a large scale."

SDP is currently working with six school districts: Boston Public Schools; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C.; District of Columbia Public Schools; Ft. Worth Independent School District, Texas; Fulton County Schools, Ga; and Gwinnett County Public Schools, Ga.

"Increasing student achievement and improving accountability are priorities here at CMS," said Pete Gorman, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. "Our work with Harvard will provide us with critical information about our teachers and our students, information that will enable us to make greater strides in improving teaching and learning."

"It's incredibly important to use data to drive education reform efforts," said Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. "The Strategic Data Project provides an opportunity for those of us on the ground to work directly with university-based researchers to improve the data and information we have access to so that we can make sure that what we're doing in our schools results in the significant change and the progress we need to see for our students."

A combination of six additional states, districts and other education agencies will be selected to participate in spring, 2010. This work will be conducted by both researchers at CEPR as well as a new corps of analytic leaders selected to participate in the Strategic Data Project Fellowship, a component of this initiative which provides policymakers with new in-house expert analytic capacity. The fellows program ensures partnering agencies rapidly grow their in-house analytic talent. SDP supports the fellows with an intensive two-year professional development path and Harvard faculty support the in-agency projects fellows complete during their two-year term.

Harvard recently named Sarah Glover as executive director of SDP. Glover brings over 15 years of experience in K-12 education policy, school district governance, and nonprofit leadership to SDP.

"SDP offers districts and states a terrific opportunity to catalyze their analytical talent," said Glover, "We look forward to working closely with SDP partners to develop and expand methods of identifying, collecting, and analyzing data to help education leaders make policy decisions that are likely to have significant impact on raising student achievement."

Contact: Janine M. Mathos, Director of Administration & Communications
Phone: (617) 496-9837


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