March 16, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 12

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    New Committee on Education will build exchange of effective ideas

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The University’s new Committee on Education, which will pioneer an effort to build an exchange of teaching methods and ideas between school practitioners and education researchers, has been established as part of the Division of Social Sciences.

    In February, the Executive Committee of the division unanimously approved the establishment of the new committee, which Stephen Raudenbursh, the Lewis Sebring Distinguished Professor in Sociology and the College, chairs.

    “I am very pleased the Executive Committee voted unanimously to approve the proposal to create the Committee on Education within the Social Sciences Division,” said John Mark Hansen, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences and the Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science.

    “It is a testament to Steve and his colleagues’ hard work and expansive vision. All of us look forward to working with him and the committee to further a vigorous program of research that both contributes significant knowledge to the academic disciplines and focuses the expertise of the University on one of the pressing issues of our generation.”

    The Committee will promote interdisciplinary exchange among scholars whose research focuses on education. The Committee will sponsor an ongoing workshop on education, administer training grants in educational research and foster connections among education-related programs in existing departments and schools - including SSA’s Community Schools Program, the Urban Teacher Education Program, and courses in educational psychology, educational sociology, economics of education, social work and educational policy.

    At the same time, the Committee will promote discourse between scholars and educational practitioners involved in the University’s Urban Education Initiative (UEI). The aim is to advance scholarship on schooling while supporting UEI’s commitment to reflective practice. A vigorous fund-raising effort will support this effort. This interdisciplinary approach and strong connection to practice create an opportunity to develop a unique and exciting approach to educational scholarship that will gain national recognition and bring credit to the University, Raudenbush said.

    The Center for Urban School Improvement operates two charter schools and plans to open a third in the fall. The charter schools provide an excellent opportunity for researchers to learn about effective practices, Raudenbush said.

    “At Donoghue School (the most recently opened campus of the University Charter Schools), entering student literacy scores were significantly below grade level,” he said. “The principal decided to give all of the students five hours of literacy work each day. This is something that could not have happened in a conventional school setting.”

    As a result of this intervention, the students’ literacy skills improved dramatically. At the second-grade level, for instance, where only two out of 50 students entered the school in August with grade-level skills, 26 students scored at or above grade-level three months after they completed intensive literacy work.

    Traditional education research looks at conventional practices in the classroom and not innovations such as this intervention that can have significant impact, Raudenbush said.

    Raudenbush said the committee will study what works effectively among disadvantaged students in Chicago and accordingly suggest ways to improve teaching and learning in schools across the city and around the country.

    Raudenbush will work with others on a monograph titled The Chicago Model for Urban Schools Part I: Primary Schools, which will document effective practices in the charter schools in order to disseminate successful practices.

    Other members of the Committee on Education are Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College; Derek Neal, Chairman and Professor of Economics; Susan Levine, Professor in Psychology and the College; Melissa Roderick, Professor in SSA and Co-Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research; Paul Sally, Professor in Mathematics; Susan Stodolsky, Professor in Comparative Human Development and Faculty Director of the Urban Teacher Education Program; Cybele Raver, Associate Professor in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; Micere Keels, Assistant Professor in Comparative Human Development; and Diane Schanzenbach, Assistant Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy Studies.