Education Policy Innovation Collaborative plans to restore Michigan K-12 education
A year ago, MSU associate professor of education policy Joshua Cowen presented an idea for new research that invests in grades K-12 education. Today that plan is in the process of being implemented through what he calls Education Policy Innovation Collaborative, or EPIC.
EPIC is a collaboration between researchers across the state which focuses on schools in Michigan that need help to produce more successful students.
Cowen intends to include researchers from the MSU College of Education, University of Michigan, graduate students, and policy makers at the Michigan Department of Education.
Cowen co-directs EPIC with MSU professor of education policy Katharine Strunk, who has also been involved in this type of research for years.
Strunk has previously worked with school districts near Los Angeles and she said part of what brought her to MSU from California was the ability to do this type of research.
Cowen said Strunk was recruited specifically for this purpose.
“It’s not something that has been done widely in this kind of close fashion in many states,” Strunk said.
Strunk said EPIC is a unique center that works with policymakers to create evidence that informs policies. The plan is to provide research that improves education, which includes the recruitment of high-quality teachers.
“Principals across the state and superintendents across the state, and across the country, are reporting shortages of teachers in specific high-need areas,” she said. “Michigan Department of Education is trying to understand how can they help.”
EPIC has just, begun and they have not yet started their collaborative investigations, but their individual research prior to joining the project should be very useful.
According to the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, in 2015 the U.S. math ranking fell to the 35th out of 72 countries and 25th in science based on the test scores of 15-year-olds.
According to the 2015 Nation’s Report Card, Michigan is at the bottom of the list nationally when it comes to proficiency levels across the board.
“We know from studies that we’ve done that the United States as a whole, Michigan included, the content definitions of what students study at what grade levels was very low-level for a long time,” said MSU professor and Director of the Education Policy Center William Schmidt.
Schmidt said this research is important because Michigan’s performance is especially low compared to other states and this data will provide an opportunity.
“We need to make sure that teachers are teaching those, that new more demanding content and that is a key issue that needs to be addressed,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said their office plans to work with EPIC as well, and he hopes the project will lead more children to better careers.
Cowen said the academic market tends to prioritize research projects that are published in obscure academic journals.
“People who make decisions that affect those kids and families don’t read those so we’re kind of bridging the gap between research and practice,” he said.
According to Strunk, students with better education, teachers and a more supportive environment are more likely to attend and succeed in college.
Strunk said the quality of teachers impacts students’ lives beyond college, too. Students with better teachers are more likely to live in safer communities as an adult, for example.
“These are really important things that happen to kids between the ages of five and 18 when they’re in the public school system and the more that we can do together as a research community with policy makers to help improve those experiences for kids, we have no doubt that there would be a better long term outcome in college and beyond,” Strunk said.
Strunk said the goal is to set a model for how to do high-quality research and to improve education throughout Michigan and across the country.
“It’s incredibly rewarding and important to me to be able to help policy makers in the district and in the state of Michigan or in other states, learn from what they are doing and actually improve the education of kids,” Strunk said.