The Public Policy Center (PPC) at the University of Iowa and the Iowa City Community School District (District) have received a $400,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation’s Research-Practice Partnership Program which funds long-term, mutualistic collaborations between practitioners and researchers to conduct relevant and useful research and facilitate the long-term accumulation of knowledge about education policy and practice. The funds will support the Equity Implemented Partnership led by Sarah Bruch, Director of the Social and Education Policy Research Program at the PPC, in coordination with Kingsley Botchway, Director of Equity and Engagement at the District.
The Equity Implemented Partnership leverages social science and education policy research and practitioner knowledge to more effectively address persistent problems of policy and practice and improve students’ educational opportunities and outcomes. The broad aim of this research partnership is to improve the equitability of school experiences for students in our local community school district by providing the District with the research expertise and capacity to conduct data collection and analysis, and to project, implement and design research-based solutions to existing disparities. Over the past two years, the Partnership has created a strong structure and process for collaboration, created trusting relationships, institutionalized multiple data collection instruments, and begun evaluating equity programming initiatives in the District.
“The partnership benefits the District by giving it the capacity to assess and address its needs,” Bruch said, “but it also benefits the University, by giving faculty and students the invaluable experience of working with community partners on real world issues of pressing concern.”
The grant will be used to build on this foundation to enhance the role of the Partnership in the District, to engage in collaborative research that furthers the state of knowledge on student experiences of school climate, and to build District capacity. The funding will strengthen research efforts to investigate the connection between student experiences and outcomes, and to examine the link between racial disparities in student experiences and outcomes. The funding will allow the Partnership to use a district-based liaison who will coordinate and enhance the District’s efforts at addressing equity, and use a school-based strategy working directly with teachers to connect school goals and practices with school-specific data on student achievement and experience disparities.
“This is important work and we are excited to receive this grant to expand our knowledge of the student experience in the classroom to determine ways to improve the environment in our schools,” Botchway said.
This spring, the Partnership will conduct the third annual school climate survey with all 5th through 12th grade students in the Iowa City Community School District. Implicit bias and restorative justice professional development trainings are also underway at the District and being evaluated by the PPC. The Partnership looks forward to being able to strengthen their efforts at creating a more equitable school community.