The Center for Social Organization of Schools was established in 1966 as an educational research and development center at Johns Hopkins University, and has been a part of the Johns Hopkins School of Education since 2009.

CSOS combines programmatic research findings from an interdisciplinary team of sociologists, psychologists, policy analysts, and educators, with the development of practitioner-validated strategies, materials, tools, and curricula, plus a wide range of dissemination and training strategies, to support school improvement and student outcomes across the nation.

a boy reading a book

Celebrating 55+ Year

To honor CSOS history and to frame its future, we celebrated CSOS at 50 in 2016 with a series of blog posts throughout the year from CSOS faculty: Robert Balfanz, Faith Connolly, Marcy Davis, Rachel Durham, Joyce Epstein, Jeffrey Grigg, Richard Lofton, Douglas Mac Iver, Martha Mac Iver, and Steven Sheldon. In this series, each faculty member looks back, looks around, and looks ahead to discuss how their work links to CSOS history.

CSOS researchers during Hopkins on the Hill event showcasing their work on adolescent literacy and dropout prevention

Our History

Founded in 1966 by James S. Coleman and Edward L. McDill under the aegis of the United States Office of Education, the Center for Social Organization of Schools celebrated its 50th year in 2016.

Center for Social Organization of Schools logo

Research Purpose

The purpose of CSOS has remained consistent since its founding — to study how changes in the organization of schools can make them more effective for all students by promoting equity and social justice, academic achievement, well-being, development of potential, and eventual career success.

The emphasis on social organization is based in sound theory — that changes in the structure of an environment will produce changes in the attitudes, behaviors, and accomplishments of the people in that environment. Schools can be made more effective for all students through changes in the organization of the classroom, school, and district. This emphasis compels CSOS to address many major, practical problems in education, including:

How to develop learning environments that minimize students disengagement, and maximize student agency, belonging, connectedness, satisfaction, and learning
How to organize educational experiences that foster learning among students with different interests and needs
How to facilitate the successful transition from education to work, while graduating all students from high school on a path to post-secondary success
How to structure and coordinate educational programs to provide fair access to educational and occupational opportunities
How to connect schools with families and communities in ways that build relationships, promote student success, and enable student, family, and community voice to shape educational opportunities and experiences.

Research Methods

The research methods used in CSOS studies reflect the tasks to be accomplished and the expertise of the research personnel.

Survey research is employed to discover and define relationships between school organizational practices and student outcomes. Experimental research and related methodologies are conducted in school settings. Case studies and qualitative research methods are used to delve deeply into the characteristics of school contexts and the experiences of all participants in education.

Center researchers, educators, and staff work closely with schools, school districts, state departments of education, and the federal government to help implement, create the conditions for effective use, and evaluate the impact of research-based practices and processes.

Research Funding

The substantial research and development accomplishments of CSOS have resulted in its receiving continuing federal funding since its founding in 1966. CSOS has successfully sought grants and contracts from both public and private sources to supplement and extend its mission.

  • Early Learning

    Early Learning studies focus on the development and evaluation of early intervention literacy programs, and development of teacher-training modules for early literacy instruction.

    A teacher reading a book with a class of young children.
  • Pathways to Success

    The Everyone Graduates Center works to develop, establish, and spread evidence-based strategies including middle and high school redesign, student success systems, and pathways to adult success.

    An adult and a student working together at a table.
  • Partnerships

    The Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships develops, evaluates, and disseminates partnership models that strengthen relationships among educators, family members, and community partners.

    People sitting at tables during the 2019 NNPS Leadership Institute on Family and Community Engagement meeting.

Center Co-Directors

  • Robert Balfanz, PhD

    Professor
    Co-Director, Center for Social Organization of Schools

    Affiliation

    Center for Social Organization of Schools, SOE Leadership

    Expertise

    Education Policy & Politics, Research, Evaluation & Assessment, Social Context of Education

    Headshot of Robert  Balfanz, PhD
  • Marcia Davis, PhD

    Associate Professor (Research)
    Co-Director, Center for Social Organization of Schools
    Director of Research, Baltimore Education Research Consortium

    Affiliation

    Center for Social Organization of Schools, SOE Leadership

    Expertise

    Learning & Instruction, Research, Evaluation & Assessment

    Headshot of Marcia  Davis, PhD
  • Steven B. Sheldon, PhD

    Associate Professor
    Co-Director, Center for Social Organization of Schools
    Co-Director, Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships

    Affiliation

    Center for Social Organization of Schools, SOE Leadership

    Headshot of Steven B. Sheldon, PhD

Researchers and Faculty

  • Joyce L. Epstein, PhD

    Professor
    Co-Director, Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships
    Co-Director, National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS)

    Affiliation

    Center for Social Organization of Schools, SOE Leadership

    Expertise

    Administration, Organization & Leadership, Social Context of Education

    Headshot of Joyce L. Epstein,  PhD
  • Affiliation

    Center for Social Organization of Schools

    Expertise

    Curriculum Studies, Research, Evaluation & Assessment

    Headshot of Douglas  J.  Mac Iver, PhD
  • Martha Abele Mac Iver, PhD

    Associate Professor
    Associate Dean of Research

    Affiliation

    Center for Social Organization of Schools, SOE Leadership

    Expertise

    Research, Evaluation & Assessment

    Headshot of Martha Abele Mac Iver, PhD
  • Barbara A. Wasik, PhD

    Professor (Courtesy)

    Affiliation

    Center for Social Organization of Schools

    Expertise

    Curriculum Studies

Staff and Practitioners

  • Kate Anderson
  • Mary Alice Bond
  • Vaughan Byrnes
  • Mariko Yoshisato Cavey
  • Rachel Chappelle
  • Jeri Cripe
  • Joyce Davidson
  • Gregg Howell
  • Dorothy Jones
  • Lanita Jones
  • Ann Maouyo
  • Amanda Martorana
  • Linda Muskauski
  • Charlene Pryseski
  • Michelle Starnes
  • Brenda G. Thomas
  • Maria Waltemeyer