University of Rochester

Center For Research On
Education Outcomes

Project Overview

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes has been established at the University of Rochester's Wallis Institute of Political Economy to improve the body of empirical evidence about education reform and student performance at the primary and secondary levels. Increases in education reform efforts in the United States have not seen parallel attention to program evaluation and impact assessment, leaving policy makers without the necessary evidence for improving decisions. Two foundations have committed $1.25 million to fund a three-and one-half year initiative to address the current shortage of evaluation research in education policy matters.

The chief focus of the Center will be to support state and local education policy makers in their use of reliable research and program evaluation to assess the performance of education initiatives. To accomplish this objective, the Center will undertake activities to address both the supply and demand sides of evaluation and other research. With parallel attention to production and utilization of sound research and evaluation, simply increasing the amount of work may not prove valuable.

The Center will actively monitor current and proposed program innovations at the state and local levels to select promising and potentially replicable initiatives. Examples of potential selections include new hiring practices, changes in the length of the school year, enriched remedial programs, or changes in the financing incentives that a district faces. In those programs where no rigorous assessment of program outcomes is planned, the Center will broker the development of evaluation designs and assist in identifying researchers and funders.

A limited amount of direct consultation and technical assistance would be available to frame hypotheses, lay out possible approaches to research, and prepare those personnel who will participate in the implementation of studies. To support local agencies in evaluating their education programs, the Center will develop user-friendly guides to creating and using empirical evaluation data.

The Center will offer support to districts or other agencies that want independent critiques of evaluation plans and results. To support wider dissemination of empirical evidence, the Center expects to regularly distribute research and evaluation reports that can advance the development of good education policy.

An advisory board will provide the Center independent guidance and oversight and to assist in the identification of programs that could benefit from Center involvement.

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