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Governing Board

“I believe that education is ultimately a collaborative endeavor, whether it’s at the classroom level, with a community, really in every respect, so it only makes sense that the research be collaborative…. It’s very important that school districts work together and that states work together to help us discern the challenges that we’re facing right now in public education, and I think the REL plays an important role in that respect…. Most of my school districts don’t really have the capacity to conduct research, so they are very much dependent upon us to put them in contact with those who can conduct research. What we have found is that as we’ve developed relationships with various researchers, the superintendents themselves will call the researchers if they have an idea, if they have a question, and that has led to opening some doors for the researchers. So it’s a two-way street. It’s not just the sharing of research. It’s also giving researchers access to the school setting within which to conduct the research.”

— Dr. James N. Baldwin, District Superintendent of Schools, Questar III Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), Castleton, New York

“Practitioners and researchers get to take a moment to walk in each others’ shoes…. It provides them with an opportunity to really own the research together, because they’re both involved in it. There’s a back and forth that goes on when researchers talk about what they’re finding…like they are engaged in a sense-making process together, where they really elevate the quality of the work that’s done, so that when it does come out, the practitioners have already brought into it. There’s more of an expectation that this research will be used. And with the limited capacity that’s out there right now in our schools and our districts and our states, I think more people know about the research when it’s done collaboratively versus a couple of researchers that go off and then present. I think the word gets out much quicker, and it kind of can be spread through the field faster.”

— Dr. Mary Canole, Coordinator, Rhode Island School Superintendents Association; Educator Workforce–School Leadership Consultant at The Council of Chief State School Officers

“It’s great that we have these research alliances. It’s more grounded in what’s really happening in schools, and I think it does two things: One, it’s more collaborative. We’re getting quicker information to inform our work. But it’s getting the word out about the work that we’re doing. So in a way, by having the research alliances, we are digging into the districts and the states and sharing the information so that people can then turn to the REL and find out what they need to know about whatever it is…. We have developed a thirst for research, and I think that’s a good thing, but now we’re going to have to manage that. How do we take that next step to really make people educated users of the research that’s out there, and all of the different levels of research?”

— Elaine Pinckney, Superintendent, Chittenden South Supervisory Union, Shelburne, Vermont

“A collaborative approach to research, I think, is the process that is most fruitful. Are we addressing the right problems? How can it be used to improve public education in the region and in the states…? The [collaborative] model goes deeper, because the schools themselves—the school principals, the teachers, the school boards—are going to be asking questions that they think are important…. We have the ability to collect and process more data. The question is, is it really useful or not? I think that’s the issue, and that needs to be thought of at the front end. What are the key questions…? Educators are helping to frame those questions.”

— Dr. Ira Rubenzahl, President, Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, Massachusetts

“I do believe there’s value in creating the potential to do diverse work that includes research, dissemination, and forming new collaborations to strengthen the potential to be effective at the state and community levels…. We might need to bring a little bit of our own research agenda to understanding collaborations and what makes a collaboration work. Every collaboration has its interests, and the ability to distill all those interests to one that can be a focus, or some agreed-upon interest that can move a practice forward is something that I think we need to be concerned about…. Given that [the alliances] each have different interests, I think there could be collaborations around those who do the hard research and those who can have more of a specialty around interpreting that research and supporting people in the field in various ways, so that the veracity of the understandings are carried out with confidence in the delivery of those designs. I think those are areas that states and school districts still need help.”

— George Coleman, Former Connecticut Commission of Education

“I think that collaboration is necessary. Because we inform one another—practice from the field, what researchers are doing…. I thought this morning was a good example of the researchers listening carefully, intently. A lot of stuff was coming their way, they appreciated it. The other thing is it gives me ideas as a person who works with teachers, teacher prep programs, as well as teachers in the field. The importance of making sure that they are reading the research. That they are thinking about the research. That they are thinking about the implications of it, but critically. Not just taking everything, you know, well, you should do this, you should do that. Thinking well, here are some recommendations, let’s think about how this might fit in your setting.”

— Gerry Buteau, Professor Education, Plymouth State University

“[Applied research studies in schools] really benefit from having a wide variety of different perspectives in the construction, the development of the idea, and the design of the research. Because when you go into schools and applied settings, it’s very, very complicated. It’s not tightly controlled. It is very complicated. And so you want to deal with that complexity in an honest and in a rigorous fashion so that you can get results that are immediately useful to similar types of situations. And the only way you can do that is to really get a variety of lenses … a variety of different people with different perspectives on the issue to share with you and to build the complexity into the design of those studies. Those studies are immediately transferable, as I said, into policy decisions, practice decisions, instructional decisions, leadership decisions that have to be made in the real world of real schools.”

— Don Leu, Professor of Education, University of Connecticut

“The appeal of the REL and of the rural alliance was that it was that engaging the practitioner in developing research. And what’s appealing to that is that instead of providing certainty, it provides– it informs the practitioner. And that, by the very nature, empowers the practitioner to become more invested in what’s happening. And when I always think about motivation, I think about the fact that if you have people invested and empowered, they’re going to be more motivated, as opposed to when we would read research and somebody would say, this is what should happen. And if you do this, that takes out completely any the context, the values, the pieces that are important to a particular site.”

— Gary MacDonald, Retired Superintendent, Maine School Administrative District 72

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