Rutgers University and the Newark Public Schools Form Research Collaborative to Aid in Boosting Student Achievement

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With excitement and great expectations, the Newark Public Schools District (NPS) and Rutgers University in Newark today announced the creation of the Newark Schools Research Collaborative (NSRC).

The mission of NSRC is threefold: to provide independent and objective research regarding what works within NPS and public charter schools in Newark; to provide data essential for the improvement of academic attainment and achievement of all children in Newark; and to create a collaborative research culture among universities and researchers from Newark, New Jersey, the region and the nation, NPS and charter schools in Newark, and community stakeholders.

Dr. Clifford Janey, superintendent of NPS said, “The NSRC will bring together the experts and research data the Newark Public Schools needs to address the formula for consistent academic performance. During our assessment phase we have been fortunate to engage Rutgers University and other partners as we move decisively to raise standards and energize staff. NSRC will also make an important contribution to school reform and help improve the capacity of Newark schools to use data, build effective strategies, and evaluate progress.”

NSRC will undertake research projects that provide district and school-by-school analyses of student achievement and school effectiveness in the NPS and Newark charter schools. Faculty and doctoral students from all three campuses of Rutgers University as well as other universities regionally and nationally will conduct the research utilizing state-of-the-art standards for data collection and analysis.

“With the establishment of NSRC, we look forward to a sustained, long-term relationship among its partners with the ultimate goal of carrying out a variety of educational research projects related to the needs of NPS and Newark charter schools,” said Dr. Steven J. Diner, chancellor of Rutgers University in Newark.

Dr. Janey noted that the NSRC process is one of a number of key NPS initiatives that will examine data derived directly from the school district to drive change. He also cited the recent comprehensive Walk-Through process, which marked the start of the process to build capacity, increase rigor and raise academic expectations for the district’s 75 schools. The superintendent said the information gleaned from the Walk-Throughs will complement the NSRC format which will identify progress and needed reform.

NSRC will be located on the Newark campus of Rutgers University and co-directed by Paul L. Tractenberg, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor and Alfred C. Clapp Distinguished Public Service Professor of Law, and Alan R. Sadovnik, professor of Education, Sociology and Public Affairs. Tractenberg and Sadovnik also co-direct the Institute on Education Law and Policy at Rutgers University in Newark. In addition to its two co-directors, NSRC will have a governing board, an advisory board, various working groups and a staff headed by an administrative director.

NSRC is in part modeled after the nationally recognized Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), which has been in operation at the University of Chicago since 1990. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, formerly chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, supported the CCSR and believes that research and data collection helps to address weaknesses in schools. Similar entities are being created in a number of major U.S. cities, including New York City (at New York University) and Baltimore (at Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University).

Given the fluidity of the Newark student population, one of NRSC’s greatest benefits will be its ability to establish, for the first time, a permanent, shared data repository for results of all studies conducted over periods of years. NSRC will be able to track students as they progress through elementary, middle and high school regardless of whether they move from one neighborhood to another or transfer from a Newark district public school to a Newark charter school or vice versa. The construction and maintenance of reliable, current databases will be a paramount threshold project of NSRC and will be the basis of accurate analysis of educational progress in the city of Newark.

Other early NSRC research projects will include a study of student achievement, attrition and retention in every Newark district public school and every Newark charter school, and comparative analyses of both sectors to develop an understanding of what constitutes “best practices.” NSRC also will examine the differences in student achievement between applicants and non-applicants to one or more Newark charter schools, all of whom ultimately remain in a Newark district public school. A similar study will focus on the effect of the Newark charter school lottery system on student achievement, where students who are successful in the lottery attend a charter school and students who are not successful in the lottery attend a Newark district public school.

NSRC will obtain financial support for its operation and research projects from many governmental and foundation sources, including the Newark Charter School Fund (NCSF). The Victoria Foundation provided an initial planning grant that enabled a team from Rutgers, and the NPS to travel to Chicago, along with a representative of the NCSF, to study its successful research consortium model. Rutgers University in Newark will provide start-up support for the co-directors and a full-time administrative director, as well as in-kind support to physically house NSRC.

Dr. Janey concluded that he is excited about NSRC and is proud that his executive team is able to contribute to its development.