The Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) at ICFI has inaugurated a new research alliance that includes nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the Mid-Atlantic region. Research alliances, a key feature of the current RELs, are groups of researchers and practitioners who work together to use data and research to address an education concern. This researcher-practitioner partnership will bring data and research to bear on the challenge of increasing degree completion at HBCUs.
In November 2012, the research alliance held its first meeting in Baltimore, MD, where presentations and discussions focused on the policies and practices implemented by the HBCUs to improve graduation rates. The meeting also featured an assessment of the research basis for those policies.
Highlights from the meeting included presentations by Kent McGuire (president, Southern Education Foundation) and Ray Hart (senior researcher, REL Mid-Atlantic at ICFI) on the regional trends in the data related to college completion rates at HBCUs, followed by small group discussions with participants to address three key questions:
Participants identified three top research priority areas: academic preparation/progress, financial literacy, and financial aid. They also expressed interest in research that would help identify how to test and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of programs such as (1) summer bridge programs between high school and college; (2) early identification programs to provide targeted intervention; (3) retention coordinators; (4) academic advising and learning communities; (5) communication between academic affairs and student affairs; and (6) programs for non-traditional students including veterans, teenage parents, non-residential students.
The research alliance is following up this first meeting by identifying specific research and technical assistance projects to undertake with REL Mid-Atlantic.
The meeting agenda, biographies of presenters, and slides from the presentations are available online.
Elliot Weinbaum has been named Associate Commissioner for the Knowledge Utilization Division at the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE). He will oversee the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) program and the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). Since Elliot joined IES as a senior research scientist in October 2011, he has had a central role in re-tooling the REL program to support researcher-practitioner partnerships, known as "research alliances."
Ruth Curran Neild, NCEE Commissioner, said, "Elliot not only is a top-notch researcher but also is deeply committed to making education research relevant and useful to practitioners. His familiarity with the literature on how practitioners use data and research adds an important dimension to the work of IES."
Focusing on collaboration and partnerships is not new to Elliot. Before joining IES, he spent 10 years as a researcher at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education and 5 years as an assistant research professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. During that time, he worked with districts and states to help improve how they worked with schools. He also studied the impact of state policies on the work of students and teachers.
Elliot hopes that the REL program will "build the capacity of researchers and practitioners to ask and answer questions that will help everyone to improve." He also emphasizes the importance of continuing to refine the WWC's strategies for sharing, through new products and dissemination opportunities, summaries of research on interventions.
Elliot holds a Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in history from Yale University.