Category School News
Author Andrew Myers

Bob Balfanz is known for an ability to translate his research into practical programs that increase graduation, reduce dropout rates, and help students transition from high school into college and the workforce.

Robert Balfanz, a research professor and co-director at the Center for the Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) and director of the Everyone Graduates Center, has been named as only the second Johns Hopkins School of Education Distinguished Professor.  The honorary position is a three-year, renewable appointment that recognizes faculty members for extraordinary scholarship and professional distinction.

Balfanz is one of the School of Education’s most recognized and respected thinkers and widely acknowledged as an authority on a variety of education issues, including secondary school reform, chronic absenteeism and dropout prevention, and early warning systems and instructional interventions in high-poverty schools.

He is acutely focused on getting students to graduation and preparing them for success in life after high school, whether that be in college or the workforce. The Everyone Graduates Center’s mission, for instance, is “to develop and disseminate the know-how required to enable all students to graduate from high school prepared for college, career, and civic life.”

“Bob Balfanz is somebody whose work has international impact and really exemplifies who we are and what we do in the School of Education,” said Dean Christopher Morphew at a ceremony announcing the appointment while presenting the unassuming Balfanz a congratulatory bouquet.

“Now, stand here while I say some very truthful and nice things about you,” Morphew added with a laugh. “I’m thrilled to announce that our next School of Education Distinguished Professor is Bob Balfanz. He is an exceptional leader. This is a slam dunk for the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Congratulations, Bob.”

Balfanz earned his undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins and his doctorate at the University of Chicago. He has been on faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Education since 1996 where he has carved out a national reputation for his research, leadership, and developing evidence-based practical education reforms.

Most recently, Balfanz made headlines when the White House worked with him to launch the National Partnership for Student Success, a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, AmeriCorps, and Johns Hopkins University that helps students thrive in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Partnership will use “people power,” as Balfanz puts it, to inspire up to 250,000 capable and trained volunteer tutors, mentors, school success coaches, postsecondary transition advisers, and wrap-around support coordinators to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student success and well-being.

“There’s a reason that when the White House thinks about student success, it reaches out to Johns Hopkins and asks Bob Balfanz to lead that initiative,” Morphew said. “He is just that well respected and influential.”

Balfanz is noted for his ability to translate research into practice through effective school interventions and for creating coalitions of states, school districts, and nonprofit community partners to work to together to address the dropout crisis and chronic absenteeism, engage in high school redesign and create postsecondary pathways, and develop student success systems that keep all students on track to adult success.

In 2013, Balfanz was named a “Champion for Change for African American Education” by the Obama White House. He was also the first recipient of the Alliance for Excellent Education’s “Everyone a Graduate” Award and received the Joan Lipsitz Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.

“It is a profound honor to be recognized by your institution, your colleagues, and your peers with a distinguished professorship. The work it acknowledges is a product of the collective efforts of the Everyone Graduates Center team, my colleagues at CSOS, and the many dedicated teachers and school leaders we have worked with and learned from over the years. Much work remains and I look forward to using this appointment to continue to accomplish it,” Balfanz said.

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