1. To develop an organizational structure for research and evaluation that can be sustained over time. This includes addressing the financial, human resource, and political challenges inherent in research and evaluation—particularly the difficulty of providing the system's leadership with news that it does not want to hear. It also assumes that, although Chicago Public Schools (CPS) needs a robust internal research and evaluation capacity, some research and evaluation functions may best reside outside.
2. To define the roles of the central office, individual schools, and outside researchers in commissioning, conducting, disseminating, and utilizing research and evaluation studies.
3. To build support for the plan with major stakeholders within CPS, among civic leaders, and within the higher education research community. Because civic leaders are involved in developing the plan, they will be more likely to support its implementation.
Improved teaching and learning is the top priority of the new CPS administration. Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan and Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins have introduced a number of initiatives intended to strengthen instruction and student performance, including a system-wide reading initiative supported by extensive professional development.
The district’s new Education Plan lays out strategies to improve the quality of instruction to students. Making informed, research- and information-based decisions is critical to the success of the plan. While the plan is being implemented, the system’s top leadership, including the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Education Officer, need access to accurate and useful information that will help them understand its strengths and weaknesses and make mid-course adjustments accordingly. To an equal or even greater extent, leaders with hands-on responsibility for school improvement—principals, area instructional staff, local school councils, and teachers—need information and assistance in understanding their successes and their problems. As currently resourced, the Department of Research and Evaluation (DRE) does not have sufficient capacity to provide the information needed to inform and advance instruction and evaluate program initiatives.
In the fall of 2001, John Q. Easton, the new Director of Research and Evaluation for CPS, initiated this study to develop a plan for building the department’s capacity. Based on interviews and focus groups, advice from experts in the field, a limited literature review, and research on other large urban school systems, the Research and Evaluation Advisory Committee recommends that the Department of Research and Evaluation reorganize around three priority areas—instructional support, data analysis, and data management.