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Harvard University to Launch Partnering in Education Research Predoctoral Training Program

This unique and powerful learning experience will connect research with practice.

The Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education awarded nearly $4 million to Harvard University to establish the Partnering in Education Research (PIER) program.  The interdisciplinary predoctoral program is designed to train aspiring researchers on how to conduct quantitative education research in partnership with school districts and state education agencies.

“The model of social science research in education has changed. The best data now reside inside school districts and state agencies, rather than in federal surveys. Because access requires personal relationships and trust, it is difficult for graduate students to break through. The program will facilitate access to data and decision-makers for young researchers as they get started. They will do high quality research while helping schools to improve children’s lives — not a bad combination for a rewarding career,” said Thomas Kane, Center for Education Policy Research Faculty Director and Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics.

PIER will be hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University.  The program will also involve faculty and students from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Over the course of the five-year grant, Harvard will support approximately 30 doctoral students in two- or three-year fellowships.

“PIER is a remarkable opportunity for our students to get the best of all worlds — an interdisciplinary program that draws on the unparalleled intellectual resources of the entire University, combined with an opportunity to design research with those working in the field. I think this program, and the design on which it is based, is exactly the direction in which education research should be headed, and I’m beyond excited that we have an opportunity to be at the forefront of an approach that is both interdisciplinary and grounded in real-world problems,” said Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan.

Fellows will complete coursework in quantitative methodology, experimental research design, and education policy. Fellows will also participate in ongoing research apprenticeships with Harvard faculty mentors, an ongoing interdisciplinary seminar on education research, and a public, bi-weekly speaker series.

A unique aspect of the program is that fellows will undertake a 10-week internship with an education agency focusing on helping the agency with their own internal research work.  Fellows will also participate in yearly conferences with partner agencies designed to construct new research projects to answer critical questions of education system leaders.

“We look forward to working with PIER Fellows to analyze the implementation and impact of statewide initiatives such as our curriculum frameworks, educator evaluation framework, and school and district turnaround efforts. It will be a pleasure to have additional well-trained analysts embedded within our organization who are able to respond to both immediate and longer-term questions,” said Carrie Conaway, Associate Commissioner for Planning, Research, and Delivery Systems at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Throughout the holistic experience, the fellows will be provided with skills needed to collaborate effectively with education agencies in defining research questions, executing projects, and communicating results.

The program will admit 8–10 students per year, starting in the spring of 2016 for students entering the program the following fall. Full-time students from HGSE, GSAS, and the HKS will be eligible to apply. Students would apply during their first or second year of graduate study for fellowships starting in their second or third year.

The Institute of Education Sciences grant number is R305B150010. The total program cost is $4,323,761. The Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education is covering 92.5 percent of the program, in the amount of $3,999,069, and Harvard University is contributing 7.5 percent, in the amount of $324,692.


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