Collaboration and Statewide Research Agendas

by Matthew Linick / Nov 16, 2012

The Illinois Collaborative for Education Policy Research (ICEPR) was recently launched as part of Illinois’s Race to the Top grant. One responsibility of this newly formed group is to develop a research agenda for state education policy.  Groundwork on ICEPR began in 2009 with an event hosted by the Forum on the Future of Public Education wherein approximately 100 stakeholders representing various sectors of the state provided input. Subsequent to this meeting, numerous stakeholders have since offered additional feedback and recommendations.

I have been working with Dr. Allison Witt to examine what other states have done to establish statewide research agendas.  Our research has uncovered that some states, like Hawaii, have established priority topics and research consortia. Some other states, like Kansas, have focused in depth on one or two issues. And while it seems that every state wants to develop a comprehensive agenda that satisfies all stakeholders and addresses the pressing issues of education in that state, achieving this task is not easily done.

This ICEPR project highlights the need for a larger, multi-state collaboration. Some organizations, like the Data Quality Campaign, offer technical assistance and work with states; however, these organizations have legislative agendas that reflect their organizational missions and goals, as opposed to those of a specific state. On the other hand, state organizations that work to develop these agendas are often focused on issues within a local or regional context, and may miss the potential benefits of interstate collaboration.

Under state longitudinal data system (SLDS) initiatives, the federal government is incentivizing states to develop longitudinal data systems. A body of research exists on how to build such systems, but less is known about how to develop meaningful research agendas once the systems exist. Work must begin to develop a consortium of state education researchers working with state longitudinal data systems and educational research, which is focused on disseminating best practices, offering technical assistance, and providing opportunities for collaboration.

Naturally, the pursuit of such a collaborative network leads to questions, such as:

  1. Given the contextualized concerns of state education agencies, would a regional or national collaborative effort benefit particular states?  Would benefits emerging from a consortium reduce the workload or produce superior ideas to those of individual states?
  2. What is the role of university-based researchers in such a collaborative effort? Should researchers pursue the agendas established by states, or should researchers inform the agendas that states establish?
  3. What contributions should policy leaders play in shaping the goals and scope of work of a regional or national consortium, should one emerge?

We are curious to hear your thoughts. Is this an important issue in your state? Are there issues central to your state collaboration efforts?