By Brittney Dunkins
Heather Harding has been named the executive director of the Education Consortium on Research and Evaluation (EdCORE), a research team led by the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
EdCORE has released two of five reports on the city’s efforts to implement the D.C. Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA) of 2007, which called for changes in business practices in local schools, among other reforms. Dr. Harding will oversee the release of the final three reports and lead the consortium’s broader portfolio of studies, not directly related to PERAA.
“Managing a local research consortium focused on improving practices blends research, practice and community advocacy,” Dr. Harding said. “It provides a space to talk about how we can improve schools with stakeholders that not only have expertise but are recipients of the services. In many ways, this is a dream job for me.”
Funding for EdCORE’s current work comes from various public and private sources, including the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, American Institutes for Research (AIR), and CityBridge. Additional support was provided by GSEHD advisory councilmember Judy Kovler and her husband, GW trustee Peter Kovler.
GW Provost Steven Lerman and Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa have also partnered with GSEHD to provide internal seed funding.
Dr. Harding was formerly the senior vice president of community partnerships at Teach for America. She will manage EdCORE’s current projects, including an analysis of D.C. public school students participating in special education and STEM courses. Other studies are also in development.
Dr. Harding holds both a master’s and doctorate in education policy from Harvard University and has worked as a practitioner at the Boston Plan for Excellence, Citizen Schools, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).
"After an extensive national search, Heather was selected based on her deep understanding of urban education policy, research, evaluation and community engagement,” said GSEHD Dean Michael Feuer.
“Heather's passion and experience will be critical in advancing EdCORE's mission to provide objective and reliable evidence in order to improve public education at all levels in our area,” he said.
Dr. Harding said that Dr. Feuer’s commitment to the consortium’s ability to effect change in the community and the recent success of education research consortia across the nation also drew her to the position.
“Dr. Feuer understands that at its center, EdCORE is a community service,” Dr. Harding said.
“When I was doing professional development work with teachers in Boston, I discovered the reports from an education research consortium in Chicago that examined how to improve instruction through the quality of homework assignments, and I realized that this tiny little report changed the type of homework that children are receiving,” she said.
The National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NRC) contracted with EdCORE to produce the five PERAA reports that analyze business practices and strategies, human resources operations, human capital strategies, academic plans and student achievement in D.C. schools, both in the traditional and charter sectors.
What sets EdCORE apart from its counterparts in other cities, Dr. Harding said, is that it is a collaborative effort with independent research organizations, including AIR, Mathematica Policy Research, Policy Studies Associates, RAND and Quill Research Associates.
“The process of putting together our reports lives with EdCORE. For the PERAA reports, the NRC will provide feedback on the analysis, but we will produce, edit and manage the final products that will be delivered to the D.C. auditor,” Dr. Harding said.
The NRC plans to write its own “summative” report, based in part on the EdCORE reports, in the latter half of 2014.
Dr. Harding hopes the general public and school practitioners will gain insight into current practices and planning through the reports and subsequently use the information to improve the quality of local schools.
“I am thrilled to have Heather at the helm of EdCORE and look forward to working with her and our EdCORE partners on current and future studies that will inform the regional and national conversation on education,” Dr. Feuer said.
“We know this initiative has special value to current and prospective students interested in working at the intersection of research, policy and practice – the pillars of GSEHD’s strategic vision.”