MSU launches new effort to support informed education policy

October 25, 2017

Michigan State University has launched a new effort to improve K-12 education for students in the state and nation by delivering objective, timely research findings directly to decision makers.

The Education Policy Innovation Collaborative, or EPIC, is focused on building partnerships between researchers and state and school district leaders. EPIC researchers use pioneering data analysis to inform policies related to teacher quality, school turnaround and improvement, school choice and other key issues at stake in schools and communities.

The collaborative is funded in part by a $1.9 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

“In keeping with MSU’s land-grant mission, EPIC was created as a new way for us to partner with policymakers across the state of Michigan and ultimately improve education for all kids,” said Joshua Cowen, founding director and associate professor in the MSU College of Education. “We especially hope to provide evidence to inform decisions that affect students in urban, rural and historically disadvantaged communities.”

Cowen is co-directing EPIC with Katharine Strunk, who joined the MSU faculty this fall as a professor of education policy and the inaugural Dr. Clifford E. Erickson Distinguished Chair in Education. Cowen and Strunk have raised more than $9 million in grant funding over the past decade to support their research on policies related to education for children across the country.

Strunk is considered one of the leading experts in the nation on teachers’ unions and collective bargaining agreements. She also brings considerable experience analyzing the impact of major education reforms including No Child Left Behind, portfolio management models, school turnaround and teacher evaluation support programs.

Strunk comes from University of Southern California, where she was an associate professor in the Rossier School of Education and the Sol Price School of Public Policy. While expanding her research in Michigan and at least four other states, she will continue to work closely with the Los Angeles Unified School District—the nation’s second largest—to analyze policies intended to help attract and retain high-quality teachers.

“EPIC offers an excellent opportunity to expand upon my previous research and bring it to scale at the state and national levels,” said Strunk.

Strunk said she was attracted to MSU by the outstanding reputation of faculty throughout the College of Education and across the university, who can lend multiple areas of expertise and research methods to the projects conducted by EPIC.

“We not only evaluate what works, but answer how, why and for whom, beginning with the neediest students,” Strunk said. “In addition, we know that the labor market, human capital and education quality are interrelated, and these relationships require holistic approaches to policy. The most valuable analysis integrates these strands into a larger whole and creates a big picture approach to the research. There’s a real opportunity to do that work here with EPIC and at MSU.”

About the Clifford Erickson Chair

W. Bruce Erickson created the Dr. Clifford E. Erickson Distinguished Chair in Education to honor his father, former provost at MSU and the first dean of the MSU College of Education.

The fund was set up as a planned gift in 2003, and has now been established as a named faculty position intended to support a recognized scholar in their field. Strunk’s appointment is in the Education Policy program within the Department of Educational Administration.

The first endowed faculty chair in the College of Education created by Bruce Erickson honors his mother Mildred B. Erickson. That position is held by a faculty member in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE).