Initiative aimed at improving education

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Initiative aimed at improving education

Greg Welch, CYFS research associate professor, right, is heading CEHS’ Nebraska Bureau for Education Research, Evaluation and Policy, along with Benjamin Baumfalk, graduate assistant.

UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences, together with the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, has launched an interdisciplinary research initiative to improve education from preschool through higher education.

Led by Greg Welch, research associate professor, the Nebraska Bureau for Education Research, Evaluation and Policy will pursue evaluation and policy research opportunities in partnership with educational entities throughout the state, including the Nebraska Department of Education. The bureau will give special attention to accountability policies that promote improvement in education systems.

Housed within CYFS, the bureau will also provide opportunities for researchers throughout the University of Nebraska system to contribute expertise within core policy-relevant research areas.

“As we continue to build relationships with educational entities in Nebraska, we plan to connect them with NU faculty and provide research support for specific needs,” Welch said.

Foundations for the bureau began nearly 50 years ago, as faculty with CEHS’ Department of Educational Administration conducted surveys and field studies to support educational organizations across Nebraska. As opportunities for education evaluation continued to grow, department chair Brent Cejda recognized the need for a centralized research hub.

“Education research is much bigger than a single department,” Cejda said. “This is a way for researchers to come together for cross-entity collaborations.”

This collaborative focus extends to policymakers and education practitioners, as the bureau seeks to expand partnerships across the nation and disseminate findings to a broad audience. It is important to inform policies, Welch said, because they are a driving force in the continuous improvement of education.

Evaluation and policy research are already under way through a recently awarded contract from the Nebraska Department of Education. With this initial project, Welch and Benjamin Baumfalk, graduate assistant, will evaluate the impact of school improvement grants on student outcomes in Nebraska’s Title I schools.

Looking to the future, Welch plans to rely on CYFS’ Nebraska Academy for Methodology, Analytics and Psychometrics for evaluation and methodological support and CEHS faculty and other UNL researchers to sustain the bureau’s research endeavors. According to CYFS director Susan Sheridan, this collective research is critical in developing a framework for student success.

“The bureau closely reflects the overarching goals of CEHS and CYFS, as we work to provide the best possible opportunities for students across the education continuum,” Sheridan said. “Through collaboration and outreach, we look forward to contributing to sound education policy and classroom practices.”

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