Education Research-Practice Partnership

JCPS Kids
University of Louisville – Jefferson County Public Schools

This year, the second year of our partnership, our original research focus needed to be reconsidered following several changes in district administration. With the blessing of the new interim superintendent, we moved forward with repositioning the University of Louisville-Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Partnership within the School District's Research Office. Recently, we held meetings with the Chief Executive Director of the Data Management, Planning, and Program Evaluation office and later convened a group of JCPS and University of Louisville leaders to discuss an initial topic our partnership would tackle. We decided to study the Deeper Learning initiative that the District has just launched this summer. Because the initiative is new, we are starting our research just as the program is taking root. After years of focusing on accountability through tests, the district is moving toward increasing student engagement through its Deeper Learning plan. We will study the program as it unfolds, spending time trying to understand how a new district program gets launched, is rolled out and adopted, and embraced by the district's schools. We hope that by studying the implementation process over time, we will not only learn about the JCPS Deeper Learning Initiative, but also contribute to the general understanding of how districtwide initiatives extend across the district and what it takes for new practices to be taken up and institutionalized.

In two blog posts that have been published on NNERPP's Education Week blog (“Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice”) this year, we also described the developments our young partnership has experienced since its inception.

Our Leadership

Lessons Learned from an Edu. Research-Practice
Partnership

Our first post, “Lessons Learned from an Edu. Research-Practice Partnership,” shares three of the greatest challenges we encountered when trying to launch our RPP: limited resources, bureaucratic structures, and forging communication pathways. Though funding is always a concern, along the university-side of the partnership, graduate students can be an immensely helpful resource to the RPP. Even still, what we’ve also found is that the academic process can at times be confusing, secretive, and unnecessarily difficult for researchers. Add to that the possibility (and reality) of leadership turnover on the district-side, and one can see why RPPs are not easily established. While these challenges are not unique to our experience, how we respond can ultimately impact the direction and health of the partnership. We have seen that setbacks are often followed by new successes and can spur innovative problem solving.

New Roles for Education Doctoral Students:
Internships in Early-Stage Partnerships

In a second post, we talk more about this idea of innovative problem solving and how it is essential to those interested in starting an RPP. Written from the researcher point of view, “New Roles for Education Doctoral Students: Internships in Early-Stage Partnerships,” expands on the idea of having graduate students as an important resource in the RPP and sketches an apprenticeship model for doctoral students that would benefit their research training as well. More traditional education doctoral training programs involve classroom activities where students receive abstract knowledge out of context. Instead, in the model proposed here, students would be actively engaged with a significant applied research topic, learning relevant theory, methods, and practices in the realworld setting of an urban school district. Benefitting multiple aspects of the partnership, this apprenticeship model is just one way our RPP is embracing the challenges unfolding in front of us and innovating where we can to keep moving forward.