Published: Nov. 17, 2014

Examining the effect of foundation-funded research on education

Contact(s): Sarah Reckhow Political Science office: (517) 432-0028, Andy Henion Media Communications office: (517) 355-3294 cell: (517) 281-6949

How does research funded by private foundations shape the debate on teacher quality in America?

Using a $277,895, two-year grant from the New York-based William T. Grant Foundation, scholars from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan will investigate that issue starting next year.

In recent years, education philanthropies have become more likely to fund research projects that support their advocacy reform agendas.

Sarah Reckhow, MSU assistant professor of political science, is principal investigator on the research project. She and Megan Tompkins-Stange, a researcher at U-M, contend that foundation-funded research affects the areas of teacher quality and teacher effectiveness by introducing new concepts into the policy discourse, raising awareness of issues, providing language to frame the policy responses and reducing uncertainty about complex topics.

Study participants will include foundations that conduct research, researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders such as teacher union leaders.

The researchers will interview stakeholders and examine research reports, media coverage, congressional hearings and public debate. Then they’ll analyze how policy ideas gain ground and travel through social networks.

Reckhow was recently named one of the most influential education scholars in the nation by Education Week.

Michigan State University political scientist Sarah Reckhow will lead a nearly $300,000 project to investigate how research by private foundations shapes the debate on teacher quality in America. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

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