UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —To effectively address challenges that our nation’s children face in education, including racism and bias, state and federal decision-makers must have access to current research to understand root causes and promising practices. The EdEquity initiative fills that need. Not only does it offer a robust repository of current education research, it’s also an effective model to build relationships between researchers and Congress. In this non-political and focused approach, local and national policymakers can collaborate directly with researchers to improve the learning experience for our nation’s children.
According to a recent Children and Racism study, 42% of children aged 6 to 11 from marginalized groups face discrimination. This can negatively affect K-12 academic performance and prospects for higher education and career choice. Concerned with education equity and other critical issues facing our children’s education, Francesca Lopez of Penn State’s College of Education created the EdEquity initiative with the support of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
To extend her public policy impact, Lopez reached out to Penn State’s Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative to implement an evidence-based model for policy engagement called the Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC).
Lopez said, “In working with the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative in other projects, it was clear that they have tested relationship-building strategies through messaging and improving researchers’ skills in the engagement process.”
Taylor Scott, Director of the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative said, “What I was really excited to see in this project were the opportunities to consider the unique paths of diverse individuals and communities. We all may share the goal of improving education and student success, but how we get there may vary depending on socio-demographic circumstances. Creating targeted solutions for specific communities can help achieve a universal goal of quality education.”
The RPC model involves conducting a “needs assessment” with policymakers. In this project, more than 120 state and federal offices, both Democratic and Republican, discussed their educational concerns. These offices requested rigorous and independent research.
Researchers in the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative network rose to the call. They supplied 33 policy memos, nine fact sheets, two panel discussions with 100’s of policymakers attending, as well as numerous investigative summaries and research briefs that the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative helped develop and distribute. Topics spanned educational support services, dual- and English-language learners, community schools, school choice, and teacher workforce shortages and diversity, with a special emphasis on racial equity and inclusion.
In addition, the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative brokered connections between researchers and officials to discuss racial equity within education. Through ongoing collaborations, researchers and officials can work together to project possible outcomes for policies while still in the development stage. According to Scott, these collaborations helped policymakers understand how to achieve a measurable difference.
Scott explained that previous research has shown that offices receiving the RPC model introduced 23% more bills that used research evidence language and reported a 7% greater value of using research evidence than other legislative offices. Formal engagement built on prompt and trusted collaborations can strengthen research use, even in a divided congress.
Based on the responsive interactions with legislators about diversity in the teacher workforce, fair family engagement, academic skills, and associated considerations related to racial equity, Scott is optimistic about EdEquity’s long-term benefits to children, families, and communities.
She added, “Using data and evidence gives us a starting point for coming together across ideological divides to discuss issues that a growing number of public servants care about—helping all students succeed and eventually participate in the economy and workforce.”
EdEquity seeks to continue fostering collaborations between researchers and policymakers to promote equity for all our nation’s school children, regardless of background. For more information about EdEquity, visit the website.
The Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative Research Translation Platform studies best practice for research translation and consults on practices such as the Research-to-Policy Collaboration model. The website further describes partnership opportunities that can help you make a difference in the issues you’re most passionate about.
Questions? Contact Taylor Scott.