- Northwestern University education researchers are working in partnership with elementary and secondary schools in Evanston, outside Chicago, to learn more about the factors that influence whether a student completes college, according to the Chicago Tribune.
- Taking at least five semesters of college coursework increases the chances that a student will earn a four-year degree, members of the research team, led by David Figlio, dean of the school of education and social policy, said during a joint school board meeting for Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and the Evanston Township High School District 202.
- They noted that while some predictors of college success such as grades, test scores and attendance rates are easy to measure, other areas, such as demographic factors and whether or not a student has a strong support network, are more difficult to study.
Research at the school and classroom level can answer longstanding questions over how to best prepare students for success beyond high school and how to improve principal and educator preparation and effectiveness. But such projects can also be taxing on school leaders and teachers. Providing researchers with access to data, accommodating classroom observations, getting parents to sign consent forms, or making time for researchers to interview teachers and students can heap even more obligations on already busy administrators. That’s why in the Evanston meetings, school board members were understandably asking how the research project would help them address the needs they have among the students currently in their schools.
In a 2014 blog post, Hella Bel Hadj Amor of Education Northwest, who used to lead the data and research request process at the District of Columbia Public Schools, provided researchers with some suggestions. “The best way to start is by thinking about what’s in it for the district, because that’s what they’ll want to hear first,” she wrote.
Once viewed as a way for teacher education students to gain student-teaching experience, school-university partnerships have slowly evolved into more of a two-way street. As they search for answers that might benefit students years down the road, researchers are also sharing more timely feedback with schools based on what they already know. In a 2015 paper, Ruth N. López Turley of Rice University and Carla Stevens of the Houston Independent School District, wrote that successful school-university partnerships require trusting relationships, communication with all stakeholders involved and a “joint research infrastructure.”
It’s also important for both universities and schools to identify someone who can work in a liaison role as part of the project to take some of the weight off principals.