The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences has awarded a five-year, $10 million grant to establish the first national research center to study how different approaches to school choice, such as voucher programs and charter schools, can better serve disadvantaged students. The National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH) will be housed at Tulane University and led by scholars from around the country, including Douglas Harris of Tulane, Joshua Cowen and Katharine Strunk of Michigan State University, Julie Marsh of the University of Southern California and Amy Ellen Schwartz of Syracuse University.

The center is funded exclusively by the Institute of Education Sciences. REACH also includes researchers and policy experts from: the Brookings Institution; Florida State University; Johns Hopkins University; Montclair State University; RAND Corp.; Temple University; University of California, Irvine; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of North Carolina and University of Texas.

Researchers will focus on how school choice is working for minority, low-income, English-language learner and special education students, as well as other disadvantaged students. REACH will track student outcomes and other metrics in essentially every school and every state. Researchers say five key policy areas—transportation, communication strategies, enrollment systems, oversight and teacher supply—are most likely to drive the success of choice policies. Investigators will study these policies in depth in Louisiana, Michigan, Florida, Oregon, Denver, New Orleans, New York City and Washington, D.C.

For UCI’s part, sociologist Andrew Penner will be part of a research team seeking to better understand the role of online charter schools in Oregon. “Over the last couple of years, UCI has been working to build administrative data infrastructure and we’re excited that this set up will be able to help us understand a pressing policy question in education,” says Penner. “We’re really looking forward to partnering with the Oregon Department of Education to answer a question that will help them better serve their students.”

The center will receive input from a National Policy Advisory Board representing public, private, charter and virtual schools across the country. Members include the Council of Chief State School Officers, Council for Exceptional Children, National Association of Public Charter Schools, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, National Association of Independent Schools, National School Boards Association, Great Schools, Public Impact and The Shanker Institute.

Learn more about REACH:


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