Improving K-12 Education

Two new centers become the hub of the K-12 Initiative

Launched in 2006, the Initiative to Improve K-12 Education has been key to expanding endowed faculty positions and graduate fellowships in the School of Education, spurring multidisciplinary research in educational issues and enhancing programs that allow Stanford to partner with schools and organizations serving youths.

Moving forward, the initiative’s emphasis will focus on two centers designed to support excellence in educational policy analysis and in teaching and leadership. Both have leveraged past initiative successes to attract support and design successful programs.

The Center for Education Policy Analysis

Susanna Loeb

Susanna Loeb heads the Center for Education Policy Analysis. (L.A. Cicero)

The interdisciplinary Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA), directed by Susanna Loeb, professor of education, applies scientific methods of analysis to discover what works in our nation’s schools and why. CEPA involves faculty from such disciplines as economics, law, political science, psychology, public policy, sociology and education.  

CEPA improves the information education leaders draw upon when making decisions about schools and students. CEPA has developed relationships with education decision makers and responds rapidly to those leaders when needs arise. It maintains a data center to improve the efficiency and relevance of education research. It also runs the premier training program for education researchers and provides forums for the development of education scholars at Stanford. 

CEPA has attracted more than $12 million in research grants, including $5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for doctoral education. It currently funds 19 doctoral fellows who apply research methodologies to educational challenges at the interface of policy and practice.

CEPA’s research affects education for the better. For instance, at the federal level, Sean Reardon, associate professor of education, advises the director of the Institute of Education Sciences. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Caroline Hoxby, the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, are members of the National Board for Education Sciences. Associate Professor Eric Bettinger’s research is informing the redesign and simplification of financial aid.  At the state level, Loeb’s work has helped streamline school finance aid formulas and develop new pathways into teaching. 

At the local level, CEPA is working with districts on issues of school choice, assessments, human resource policy and teacher evaluation. CEPA has developed relationships with school districts in San Francisco, Fresno, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Miami-Dade County and New York City. The data from these districts creates a rich resource for studying the effects of educational policies.

The Center to Support Excellence in Teaching

The Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET), also established as part of the initiative, serves as an interdisciplinary hub for research and development activities related to supporting teaching excellence. The center’s mission recognizes that student achievement requires effective teaching. CSET conducts research on effective strategies for teaching particular subject areas and supports teachers in developing their craft. 

Pamela Grossman, who heads Stanford's Center for Support of Excellence in Teaching, says the program gives classroom teachers the chance to come back to school themselves and improve on what they are doing.

CSET, which has attracted $7.6 million in grants and gifts, is directed by Pam Grossman, the Nomellini-Olivier Professor of Education. 

Over the past year, CSET provided professional development opportunities to more than 630 teachers and education leaders. In the spring, the center hosted a conference focused on teaching of English learners, with 240 educators in attendance and 300 more on the waiting list. As a result, CSET has launched the Teaching English Learners Studio, a yearlong program for 30 new teachers and their mentors. Participants will develop and apply practices to transform their instruction to meet the needs of English learners.

CSET also launched a research and professional development program that prepares teacher leaders to understand the mathematical reasoning process, apply that understanding to lesson plans and practices and help other math teachers adopt the approach.

Connected to CSET is work that supports school leaders creating environments that support effective teaching. For example, the Principal Fellows Program draws on the expertise of Stanford faculty in business, sociology and education to support 75 high school principals who are participating in a three-year professional development program. The principals come from 13 local districts, and include over half of the high school principals in the San Francisco Unified School District. In addition, CSET ran a summer institute for principals and teachers from surrounding districts, focused on how leadership teams can create the conditions for cultivating ongoing learning and effective use of professional development resources.

The School of Education

The School of Education was also bolstered this year by a $12 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation to create a concentration in education and Jewish studies focused on preparing doctoral scholars and researchers.

Susanna Loeb

Deborah Stipek, the I. James Quillen Dean of the School of Education. (Steve Castillo)

The gift, the largest in the education school's history, provides funding to endow a new faculty chair, support fellowships for graduate students and underwrite seminars and conferences on questions at the intersection of education, religion and civil society.

In 2011, Stanford will welcome a new dean for the School of Education. Deborah Stipek, the I. James Quillen Dean, announced she would conclude her tenure after serving since 2001.  As dean, Stipek successfully pursued partnerships with schools and communities, school reform and policy research and the formation of multidisciplinary collaborations across Stanford. She strengthened the infrastructure of the school, growing the number of endowed professorships from six to 13 and adding 15 new graduate fellowships. Under her leadership Stanford faculty assumed a national role in the crucial process of improving K-12 education.