Education Policy Center: Poised for the Future

January 12, 2011

Michigan State University makes sharing knowledge with the public a top priority.

When it comes to research on education, the Education Policy Center serves as the university’s main information portal for decision-makers who shape the quality of schools from kindergarten through college.

Established in 2000, the center recently refined its goals and priorities under the leadership of a new co-director. University Distinguished Professor Robert Floden joined William Schmidt, also a University Distinguished Professor, at the helm during spring 2010.

While the EPC mission – bringing MSU faculty expertise to bear on today’s major policy issues in K-12 and higher education – remains the same, Floden and Schmidt hope to achieve it on a larger scale. They plan to increase visibility by holding a national conference this spring and by pursuing more large grant-funded projects.

Graduate students across campus and in the College of Education, particularly in the Educational Policy doctoral program, will also have more opportunities to participate in EPC-affiliated research that has critical implications in American education reform.

The federal government has taken a more active role in influencing education policies across the country, and governors have been coming together to talk about changes that should be made on a broad scale.

“In this context of increased national interest, it’s important for faculty like those associated with the Education Policy Center to share what is known about the likely consequences of different policy directions,” said Floden, a National Academy of Education member whose distinguished research record extends over 30 years at MSU.

“These issues are important for Michigan, but we believe we can also speak to a national audience and bring in insights from international research to help inform policymaker decisions.”

Current projects include, for example, a study assessing the impact of the Michigan Merit Curriculum and an evaluation of value-added models being used to hold teachers accountable for student achievement. MSU also has an interdisciplinary doctoral specialization program in Economics of Education that’s expected to generate new quantitative research on challenging education policy questions.

To help focus its efforts on critical issues in the field, the Education Policy Center now receives oversight from a Faculty Advisory Committee made up of five high-caliber scholars at MSU. Barbara Schneider, the John A. Hannah Professor of Education, is chairperson.

She is joined by Christopher Dunbar, professor of educational administration; Peter Youngs, associate professor of teacher education; Barbara Markle, assistant dean for K-12 outreach programs, and Jeff Wooldridge, University Distinguished Professor of economics.

“One of the things we have been able to accomplish in the center is to bring strong academic research to bear on important educational policy issues,” said Schmidt. “We can, for example, play an important role in influencing the creation of rigorous, focused and coherent content standards, which research suggests can improve the education of our nation’s children.

“What better role can an education policy center play?”