Council to focus attention on statewide education research

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Quietly in formation the past two years, the Illinois Education Research Council has begun its work of conducting and sharing research to help guide state education policy.

Based at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, the council recently convened a two-day symposium that attracted more than 100 participants from across the state. This fall, it will publish its first study, an analysis of the state’s supply of teachers and administrators.

“What is missing in educational research is state level [data], especially in Illinois,” notes Executive Director Jennifer Presley.

Created in 2000 by Gov. George Ryan’s Joint Education Committee, the Council is funded through the state Board of Higher Education.

It will serve as the research arm of the state’s effort to coordinate curriculum and standards in public schools from pre-kindergarten through college. Similar efforts, dubbed the P-16 initiative, are underway in other states across the nation.

So-called P-16 efforts aim to eliminate artificial barriers to higher education and employment that result from discrepancies in expectations and preparation, according to the Education Commission of the States.

To further this goal in Illinois, Presley says the Council will conduct original education research and it will encourage collaboration between state researchers and policymakers through such events as the annual symposium. “We want to help create a seamless system of educational opportunities,” she says.

“It’s a terrific idea,” says Martin Orland, a research director for the U.S. Department of Education. “A state-based organization can act as a linchpin between the research and policy communities. Policymakers can better understand what research is out there, and researchers can better understand what policies can be made.”

Orland, who was a speaker at the Council’s symposium, explains that researchers and policymakers are driven by different motives. “One focuses on tenure and publishing and the other focuses on constituencies and popularity,” he notes.

Presley has experience in both worlds. For more than 20 years, she has overseen statewide education research and shaped policy in positions at such institutions as the Connecticut Board of Governors for Higher Education and the University of Wisconsin. Prior to that, Presley managed the department of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco. She earned a Ph.D. in education administration and policy analysis at Stanford University.

For more information, refer to the Illinois Education Research Council web site at http://ierc.siue.edu.