Education Research Center Draws High Praise
National Officials Highlight Research Conducted by Texas Schools Project
Sep. 24, 2010
Two of the nation’s top education officials recently highlighted work under way at The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC) and Texas Schools Project.
Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education, and John Easton, director of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), praised the center at a conference sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Speaking to attendees about the power of data in guiding school reform, Duncan recommended the Texas ERC policy on enforcing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a model for those constructing state data systems.
“Even under the current rules, FERPA doesn’t pose insurmountable barriers to research,” he said. “A carefully constructed data system that separates personal information while providing the data researchers need is not an abstraction. It’s being done in Texas and other states where researchers have access to as much data as they need to advance reforms without exposing students’ personal information. The Texas data system has been cited as a model policy by the Department of Education’s Family Policy Compliance Office. I hope you use it as a resource as you continue your own work.”
Separately, Easton spoke about the “ocean of data” available from longitudinal systems that link individual student information from pre-kindergarten through college and into the workforce, remarking that many researchers and practitioners may feel they’re drowning in this new data. He pointed to the importance of “developing mutually beneficial partnerships among researchers, practitioners and policy leaders” when it comes to using the data to answer questions relevant to education policy and practice.
In defining the technical assistance role of the so-called regional education labs (RELs), Easton highlighted the work of Edvance and the UTD-ERC.
“Our lab in the Southwest, operated by Edvance Research, is leading the way on this with a project that is near and dear to my heart . . . REL Southwest and ... the University of Texas at Dallas’ Education Research Center are partnering with 18 school districts, which collectively enroll about 1.2 million Texas students.”
The UTD-ERC is one of Texas’ three designated education research centers that receive individual level, de-identified student data. Their data repository of more than 1.4 billion records includes information on more than 11 million Texas students and 7 million college students.
“Texas leads the way when it comes to the depth, breadth, and availability of its education data. Over recent years, we have worked hard to ensure research with this data is both compliant with privacy laws and relevant to state policy and practice,” said Dan O’Brien, director of Texas Schools Project and the UTD-ERC. “This national recognition by both Secretary Duncan and Dr. Easton provides our staff and management team great encouragement as we continue in our work to inform and improve education in Texas.”