Public-Private Partnership Launches Education Research Center at Harvard

Looking for new ways to close the achievement gap in U.S. public schools, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, in partnership with three of the largest public urban school districts in the nation — New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — has launched an education research center at Harvard University, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Funded in part by a $6 million grant from the Broad Foundation, the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University (EdLabs) will work to identify and advance new ideas and strategies designed to improve student achievement and education practices in America's public schools. Initially, the center plans to build a database to track factors affecting student performance; examine existing practices; evaluate various student incentives to see how effectively they change student behaviors and attitudes; quantify the expected "return" from an investment in a school or district; and share its findings with policy makers.

The center plans to spend $9 million of its initial $44 million budget on Harvard researchers, $3 million to create research and development teams in each pilot school district, and $32 million on the development and execution of one or two innovations and academic interventions annually in each of the three districts.

Noting that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor challenged Americans to make affirmative action obsolete within twenty-five years, former Harvard president Lawrence Summers said that "We're 20 percent through [the timeframe]" but "we have not closed the gap 20 percent."

Mike Spector. "Broad Foundation and Harvard Launch New Education Research Center." Wall Street Journal 09/25/2008. "New Education R&D Lab Aims to Advance Innovations in Public Education." Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation Press Release 09/25/2008.