Sept. 21, 2006
Vol. 26 No. 1

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    Faculty, staff who organized Consortium on Chicago School Research to celebrate 15 years of ‘informing school reform’

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The staff and other supporters of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University will celebrate the organization’s 15th anniversary with a symposium on Thursday, Sept. 28, titled “Fifteen Years of Informing Chicago School Reform,” beginning at 4 p.m. at the Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive.

    Since its founding in 1990, CCSR has grown from a handful of researchers with few ties to the Chicago Public Schools system to a 25-person organization with a voice of importance in the Chicago education community and across the country.

    John Q. Easton, Executive Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, will start the event with a talk titled “The Power of Measurement.”

    Two presentations will follow Easton’s: “The Power of Adult Cooperative Behavior” given by founding co-director Penny Bender Sebring and “The Power of Coherent, Challenging Work for Students in a Supportive Environment,” being presented by Elaine Allensworth, Co-director for Statistical Analysis for the CCSR.

    Charles Payne, the Sally Dalton Robinson professor of history and director of African and African-American studies at Duke University, and Barbara Eason-Watkins, chief education officer for the Chicago Public Schools, will give responses to these talks.

    Melissa Roderick, the Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and Co-director of the CCSR, will speak on “Creating Markets for Ideas and Supporting the Search for Solutions,” with a response from Paul Goren, vice president of the Spencer Foundation and Arne Duncan, chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools.

    Anthony Bryk, the Spencer professor of organizational studies at the School of Education and Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, will conclude the symposium with a talk titled “Looking Back.”

    Bryk was founding director of the CCSR as well as the Center for Urban School Improvement at Chicago.

    In establishing the CCSR, Bryk and Sebring were responding to a need expressed by a number of Chicago school-system leaders and education reformers who believed that in order for the 1988 School Reform Law to achieve its aims, the city would need a credible research organization to analyze the various approaches to school reform and chart the system’s successes and failures as it worked to improve, Easton noted.

    “The goal of CCSR was to create high-quality research on Chicago’s public schools that did not advocate any particular course of action, but instead helped to inform the debate between school reformers and decision makers about policy choices and the needs of the schools,” said Easton, who was one of the first members of the CCSR Steering Committee.

    The consortium has published nearly 80 reports, several of which have resulted in changes to school-system practices and discussion among reformers, citizens and school- system leaders.

    For example, the research project series Ending Social Promotion, which Roderick led, resulted in CPS instituting programs to better address the needs of students who are lagging behind in the early grades, to prevent them from being held back later on.