AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin, Just for the Kids Inc. and the Education Commission of the States have formed a partnership to create the National Center for Educational Accountability, the first national research and policy center focused on using systematic assessment to improve schools.
The center, approved today (Aug. 9) by The University of Texas System Board of Regents, will be a non-profit corporation operating near the university’s Pickle Research Campus in north Austin.
"By approving the establishment of this national center at The University of Texas at Austin, the board of regents has reaffirmed the overriding importance of sound measures for accountability in the nation’s educational system," said Chairman Charles Miller.
"The University of Texas at Austin is a natural location for a center engaged in this work because of the university’s long and distinguished record in conducting education research and fostering school improvement," he said.
"The center will build on the innovative analysis conducted by Just for the Kids, with the goal of providing schools across the nation with the tools they need to understand how well they are doing and how they can improve. We are pleased that the university will have this opportunity to form a partnership with Just for the Kids and the Education Commission of the States to further these objectives."
The center builds on the nationally recognized work of Just for the Kids Inc., an Austin-based organization that analyzes student achievement data, identifies best educational practices and helps others to replicate the success of high-performing schools.
"As chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the board of regents, I strongly support the creation of this first-in-the-country National Center for Educational Accountability," said Cyndi Taylor Krier. "I am excited about the prospects for generating synergy from this collaborative relationship among the university, Just for the Kids and the Education Commission of the States. We have an opportunity to use this center to achieve dramatic results in educational accountability and to improve schools all across the country. I congratulate those who have worked so hard to bring this center from concept to reality, and I commend UT Austin for realizing the value to higher education which will come from investing in public education."
The Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based nonpartisan organization founded in 1965 to help state officials study educational issues, will disseminate research on best educational practices across the nation.
"Through this partnership, the lessons learned in Texas and other states will serve as a foundation for an innovative research and development program that will influence state and federal educational policy," said Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin. "We expect this to be the country’s most influential center working on educational accountability."
The new center is the latest initiative in the university’s far-reaching program in support of public education. Each of the university’s schools and colleges sponsors programs and projects that benefit public schools. For example, The Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts provides leadership to Texas educators through its partnership with the Texas Education Agency and the Region XIII Education Service Center. Its mission is to enhance the knowledge, skills and practices of educators in implementing the state curriculum, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. The center works through three major components: the Reading and Language Arts Center for Educator Development, Special Projects, and Research and Evaluation.
In addition, the Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science Teaching provides professional development opportunities for science teachers statewide. The UTeach program helps to recruit, prepare and support the next generation of math and science teachers for the state of Texas.
The national center will have a 15-member governing board. Tom Luce, chairman of the board of Just for the Kids Inc., Ted Sanders, president of the Education Commission of the States, and Faulkner will be ex officio members of the board. Each organization will have another representative on the board, and each will select three additional members from outside their organizations. Luce, who founded Just for the Kids Inc. in 1995, will be the first chair of the governing board.
"Coordinating the school improvement efforts of Just for the Kids, The University of Texas at Austin and the Education Commission of the States will be a significant step in raising academic standards across the country," Luce said. "This partnership will expand the knowledge of educators, policymakers and the public in how to use school and student information to identify educational best practice. Just for the Kids is very pleased to be part of this historic effort to improve student achievement."
"In an era when educators and education policymakers are sharply focused on accountability, it is imperative that we take full-length, motion picture looks at student achievement to improve teaching and learning," Sanders said. "Taking snapshot glances doesn’t help us learn what brings about success. This joint venture among The University of Texas at Austin, Just for the Kids and the Education Commission of the States brings together three entities that can have a tremendous impact on improving education for all of our nation’s children."
The 14 current employees of Just for the Kids Inc. will join the national center, which is expected to operate with a budget of about $2.6 million in its first year. Researchers from various units of The University of Texas at Austin, as well as scholars from other Texas universities and across the country, are expected to work with the center on projects focused on assessing educational performance, implementing best practices and formulating policy.