Research News

Vanderbilt and TN Department of Education partner to support school improvement

Peabody's Wyatt Center (Vanderbilt)
Peabody’s Wyatt Center (Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Department of Education announced the formation of a new alliance that will produce a series of rigorous research studies to inform the state’s school improvement efforts.

The Tennessee Education Research Alliance, a joint effort of Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development and the state Department of Education, will carry out and direct research with clear, practical implications for the state’s key education strategies and, in doing so, contribute to the national conversation on education policy and practice.

“We are truly excited about combining the world-class expertise at Peabody with the innovative leadership at the Tennessee Department of Education,” Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development, said. “The research alliance is very much in line with Peabody’s mission of generating new knowledge that makes a positive difference.”

This new partnership will place a premium on timely and accessible findings that help policymakers and education leaders make researched-based decisions about how to address significant educational challenges.

“It is critical that we continue to learn from what is happening in classrooms across our state to improve educational opportunities for all students,” Candice McQueen, Tennessee Commissioner of Education, said. “The findings from the Tennessee Education Research Alliance will allow us to build on the exceptional progress our state has made in teaching and learning in recent years.”

The research alliance’s agenda is defined by a steering committee composed of Peabody faculty members and state officials and informed by a broad-based advisory committee of stakeholders from across Tennessee, including the State Board of Education, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, and Tennessee School Boards Association.

Based on that input, the research alliance has prioritized four areas of focus:

  • improving early reading;
  • reimagining state support for professional learning;
  • driving improvement in low-performing schools; and
  • strengthening Tennessee’s education labor market.

Erin O’Hara, executive director of the Tennessee Education Research Alliance, formerly served as assistant commissioner for data and research at the Tennessee Department of Education.

“Our measure of success will not be the sheer number of studies published,” O’Hara said, “but the extent to which our work connects with policymakers and practitioners to critically inform their thoughts and actions.”

Housed at the Peabody Research Institute, the Tennessee Education Research Alliance is an enhanced and reimagined successor to the Vanderbilt-based Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development, which conducted studies on the state’s implementation of innovative federal education programs.

Over the past six years, the consortium studied Tennessee reforms in teacher evaluation and compensation, and the state’s intervention in persistently low-performing schools, among other topics.