Celebrating 50 Years
R, D, and D at CSOS
March 28, 2018
CSOS is considered an R, D, and D center. The leader among institutions aiming to understand and/or improve the functioning of schools for optimum student learning, our center takes responsibility for all three interlocking steps to make schools work better. “R” is for the research that uses scientific methods to study how major variables are related to school effects or to evaluate the impact of planned interventions. The first “D” is for the development of new forms or practices intended to strengthen the positive outcomes of schools. The second “D” is for the dissemination of specific school improvements that have proven effective to schools and districts across the nation. Each component has been pursued in special ways by CSOS to contribute to the national agenda for improving schools.
We are “The New Kids on the Block!”
Stocks in the Future is honored to be a part of the CSOS at 50 blog project to celebrate so many years of success in education research and innovation. Stocks in the Future (SIF) is a relatively “new” program, being two years short of our 20th anniversary. Have some fun with us as we create a parallel between Stocks in the Future and the songs of New Kids on the Block. Remember their great hit “Hang Tough?”: “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh…. We’re going a put you in a trance with a funky song!” At SIF, we like to think of ourselves as “putting you in a trance finance strong!”
Semi Self-Contained Learning Communities in Grade 6: Bringing New Evidence to Bear on Middle Grades Education
Since CSOS’s founding, one of its enduring stated goals has been “to produce useful information on how changes in the social organization of schools can influence a broad range of important student outcomes.” When I joined its middle grades research program in August 1988, CSOS was one of the U.S. Department of Education’s national research centers, the Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools (CREMS). One important line of research in that program used national and state data to conduct quasiexperimental studies of the relative advantages and disadvantages of a variety of alternative organizational approaches that educators were implementing as they attempted to create desirable learning environments for early adolescents so that more students would make a smooth and successful transition into the middle grades.
Developing Partnerships through Evidence
I joined CSOS on January 3, 2000, fresh out of graduate school, excited for the opportunity to work with leading scholars in education reform and improvement, and thankful that Y2K ended up being much ado about nothing. In my 18 years at CSOS and Johns Hopkins University, I have had the good fortune to work with outstanding colleagues on the topic of school, family, and community partnerships. Through my work with the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) at CSOS, I have strived to conduct research that would help improve practice, and to listen to practitioners to understand where further research is needed.
Continuous Improvement at CSOS
CSOS has been “learning to improve” as a continuous improvement organization over the past five decades. We learned from our public health colleagues about the importance of preventing problems like high rates of high school dropout rather than simply reacting to the problems after they occurred. Like the tale told frequently by public health researchers, we did not simply try to rescue drowning students who were floating downriver from the bridge. We hiked upstream to the bridge, found the holes in the bridge where students were falling through, learned about best paving tools and materials, and began repairing the bridge.
Going Back to the Basics
Over 50 years ago, James Coleman and Edward McDill established the Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS). They were eager to delve deeper into the findings of the Equality of Educational Opportunity (EEO) report (also called the “Coleman Report”), which indicated that students’ social and economic backgrounds had more impact on their academic achievement than the actual school they attended. Since then, CSOS researchers have aimed to conduct rigorous social scientific research on the social organization of schools to understand the educational structures and processes that would enable all students to succeed in school. Researchers learned that not only did schools’ tangible and intangible resources affect academic success….
Working in One’s Own Backyard
In graduate school, I worked as the liaison for a multiyear federal research study at my neighborhood school. I knew walking to work would be great; what I didn’t know was that—especially after I became a parent—it would reorient my priorities as a researcher. The job required brief visits to the school to drop off or pick up materials and check in on things, occasionally on short notice, and sometimes I would bring the baby with me. She always got a great reaction from the school’s staff, but she also changed how I reacted to the school itself. As I carried her through the halls of the school, I realized that the school was not just any school but could be her school someday.
Did You Do Your Homework?
Did you do your homework? This is one of the most common questions that parents ask children every day. Parents, teachers, and even students agree that homework is important. Countless research studies confirm that students who do their homework do better in school, have higher achievement, progress through the grades, compared to similar students who do not do their homework. Studies also report that many parents, students, and even teachers say that the quality of homework is poor, uninteresting, or just busy work. These contrasting realities—homework is important and homework needs to improve—both true—guide our research and design of homework.
A BERC Research-Practice Question: Are High School Graduates Ready for College?
The Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) has faculty working in programs focused on school improvement at all stages of the educational trajectory, from early childhood to young adulthood. Perhaps not coincidentally, the structure of many CSOS projects mirrors federal and state accountability expectations—e.g., all four-year-olds should be enrolled in quality pre-K programs; all kindergarteners should arrive ready to learn; there should be quality teachers in all 1st- through 12th-grade classrooms, and so on.
Reading Research at CSOS: Connections to the Past and a View of the Future
The 50th anniversary of CSOS provides the opportunity to examine how my current research on reading motivation and achievement connects to and was made possible by foundational work at the center as well as contemplating future directions for reading research at CSOS.
BERC and the Promise of Research-Practice Partnerships
The Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) is a special example of a Research Practice Partnership—one of many currently developing across the country. Our partnership began in the mid-90s when the late Sam Stringfield, a CSOS faculty member, was on the Baltimore City School Board. As part of that relationship, data and research-practice sharing began between the district research office and Sam and his research team.
The Path from Velvet Rope Lines to Diplomas Now and More
What makes the Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) a special place to work is its combination of two things that do not often occur in the same place: a long-term and dedicated focus on applied research and development in search of answers to some of our nation’s most pressing educational problems, and the ability to provide schools, districts, and states with the implementation support needed to use the center’s evidence-based tools, models, and strategies.
Look Back, Look Around, Look Ahead
The Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) at Johns Hopkins University is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Founded in 1966 by James S. Coleman and Edward L. McDill under the aegis of the United States Office of Education, the center’s enduring mission is to conduct groundbreaking scientific research that leads to evidence-based school reforms and the dissemination of proven programs for the improvement of the most-needy schools in America.