AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education has received a $1 million grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to establish a research center that will report findings on critical education issues in Texas.
The newly created University of Texas Center for Collaborative Educational Research and Policy is a jointly established research collaborative composed of three University of Texas system campuses (Austin, San Antonio and Pan American) and Texas State University-San Marcos.
The center will be administered from the College of Education’s Superintendency Program, which is in the Department of Educational Administration. The University of Texas at Austin has been designated as fiscal agent and research hub. Dr. Ruben Olivarez, former superintendent of San Antonio Independent School District and current director of the Superintendency Program, is the lead investigator.
The one-year grant is funding 13 projects that will examine effective curriculum and instruction programs, components of exceptional teacher preparation programs, school finance and allocation of resources at the district level, academic achievement of English Language Learners and developmental education courses that successfully prepare minority students for college.
The center will be a focal point for state policymakers, institutions of higher education and school districts to access collaborative research, and there will be a marked emphasis on designing, implementing and evaluating education programs that address the needs of a growing and diverse Texas student population.
According to Olivarez, research findings will inform interested parties of policy outcomes and "best practices" that will eventually close the achievement gap between low-income minorities, English language learners and other students.
"This center will access the considerable quantitative and qualitative research of more than two dozen faculty at University of Texas System campuses around the state," says Olivarez. "This is a unique opportunity for scholars to conduct education improvement research, present their findings to key policymakers and positively influence decisions made on important education issues. An additional benefit of the grant is that it will give our doctoral students opportunities to be direct participants in the research."
The Superintendency Program is one of four education leadership programs in the Department of Educational Administration. The nationally recognized, highly competitive program has produced graduates who oversee some of the largest, most complex urban school districts in the nation and is one of few such programs to offer a doctoral degree. About 15-20 new students are accepted each year, and graduates of the program include former state commissioners of education and top university administrators.
"Our graduates lead school districts that include about half of the students of Texas," says Olivarez. "We offer a high concentration of coursework in administrative leadership and management of large school districts because districts have a much more complicated structure than they used to.
"Districts tend to be larger and more complex now, and successful superintendents need to be equipped with a special set of business management and leadership skills. There’s always a need for high-quality top-level leadership in schools, and that’s the need we are addressing."
For more information contact: Kay Randall, 512-232-3910, or Dr. Ruben Olivarez, 512-471-7551.