Improving Children's Lives

Reforming Education in All Contexts of the Education System

Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) works to reform K-12 education policies and practices in order to improve the lives of children and youth.

We believe that education reform is best achieved through a systemic approach, with attention to multiple contexts. With the student our central focus, we apply research-based efforts to affect education policies and practices in each context of the system, from the family to classrooms, schools, communities and even more widely the district, state and nation.

In addition, we work with K-12 schools having diverse demographic composition and different geographical locations in order to have a broad reach and cover many types of settings. Currently, our School's faculty members are leading more than 33 research and development projects in schools, involving more than 7,000 educators and 39,000 students.

Focusing on the Student

Projects include an enrichment program for gifted students, a study of adolescents' digital learning and mentoring of African American boys. A Saturday Academy of hands-on lab investigations introduces urban high school girls to science careers. "This program has given me so much motivation and inspiration to become a doctor," says participant Nicole Miles.

Working with Families

In addition to projects that teach effective parenting and advise parents of gifted learners, one study is finding ways to encourage post-secondary education among young low-income parents. "Educational attainment is one of the most effective pathways to bettering life outcomes for poor families and their children," says co-director Lindsay Chase-Lansdale.

Advancing Teachers

SESP develops teacher leaders through partnerships with schools and museums, an alternative certification program, a teacher in residence program and the use of video analysis to understand student thinking. In addition, the master's program in teacher education is "incredibly well rounded in all areas that are critical to teacher preparation," says graduate Kimberly Carson Person.

Changing Classrooms

Innovative computer models, online science laboratories and carefully tested project-based curricula are energizing classrooms and increasing students' science learning. "I learned a lot, and I like being creative," says Ida Davis, a student using the Meaningful Science Consortium curriculum.

Advising Schools and Communities

Projects develop charter schools, bridge the gap between learning outside and inside schools, and evaluate after-school programs. A project to provide new understanding of leadership influencing mathematics instruction "ratcheted up our leadership capacity" and "enabled us to increase student performance," says Michael Lach of Chicago Public Schools.

Guiding Districts, States and the Nation

Key research guides education policy makers by analyzing the impact of school accountability practices such as school voucher programs and charter schools. Projects also assess aspects of education including achievement gaps, class size and obstacles to college.