At its best, education research uses data to inform better policy and practice decisions, support the development of tools and resources that serve individual students, and build knowledge about learning processes and systems. Realizing this potential requires collaboration among researchers and education leaders and practitioners, informed by a wide array of community stakeholders and supported by high-quality data. A new research-practice partnership in DC is starting to build this type of data-informed collaboration.
Research-practice partnerships (RPPs) are long-term, mutually-beneficial collaborations between education researchers and education practitioners (often in a local or state education agency). RPPs often provide the structure to help researchers and education leaders to ask the right questions to meet the moment, build out the right data sets, and conduct and use research that reflects local conditions and needs.
DC’s new District of Columbia Education Research Collaborative is made up of 15 partner organizations. In a comprehensive article, the D.C. Policy Center, one of the RPP partners, lays out the partnership’s five research priorities:
- Long-term outcomes
- Equity and achievement
- Mental health and support services
- Program offerings
- Student movement from school to school
Each of these research priorities will require connecting different types of data. The first priority—understanding the long-term outcomes of DC’s students—will require data from all along the P–20W pipeline and maybe even other sectors beyond education and the workforce. Some of the questions the RPP may try to answer under this priority include:
- How are outcomes for students in elementary school related to outcomes in middle school and high school?
- What barriers do students face to enroll in and graduate from college?
- What are the most valuable workforce competencies?
These and other questions will depend on robust and securely connected data systems.
RPPs aren’t only for conducting research; they can help set meaningful goals and operationalize values about who is included in data use and policymaking. With its new research partnership, priorities, and guidelines on how to involve community members, DC is taking important steps to make data a tool to support all students.