Florida State University's PIRT Program
The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB) signaled that the education enterprise of the United States had entered a new era in which policy and practice were expected to be based on evidence. NCLB requires that practitioners will have to turn routinely to education research when making important decisions. Producing the quality and quality of research relevant to policy and practice requires a transformation in the field of education.
At present, there are significant issues pertaining to the nature of the training that is provided by graduate programs in education. Many schools of education do not provide rigorous research training for doctoral students. Although rigorous research training that is relevant to education is often provided elsewhere in universities (e.g., in psychology & economics departments), these disciplines seldom focus on education topics. Moreover, there seems to be a mismatch between what education decision makers want and need from the education research community and what the education research community is providing.
Many of the questions raised by practitioners and policy makers require answers to questions of what works in education for whom under what circumstances. These questions require the use of research designs that allow strong causal inferences. Yet, these are the methods with which relatively few in the education research community have been engaged. The goal of the FCRR PIRT Program is to increase the capacity of the field of education research by increasing the number of professionals who can add findings from high quality educational research to the body of knowledge needed to allow educators and policy makers to make evidence-based decisions concerning educational practices.
The organizing themes of the training program concern interdisciplinary research in education sciences related to reading. Specifically, the program was designed to provide interdisciplinary training for graduate fellows so that they can acquire competency to conduct high quality evaluation research in real world educational settings, and provide meaningful answers to educators and policy makers on questions of importance to them. The gold standard for such research is randomized controlled trials (RCT). Graduates fellows will receive significant exposure to and training in the use of RCT designs. Additionally, graduate fellows will receive training in strong quasi-experimental designs that may be appropriate in situations where an RCT is not possible. Although a principal focus of graduate fellow training and experience will be on evaluation research, we believe that it is not possible to separate measurement from evaluation. Therefore, a second focus of the training program will be to provide interdisciplinary training in measurement development and evaluation.
All graduate fellows will receive core knowledge in both evaluation and measurement. Graduate fellows also can choose to obtain additional expertise in methods relevant to evaluation, measurement, or both. Faculty associated with FCRR have an established history of conducting RCT evaluations of interventions, curricula, and professional development models related to improving the reading outcomes of students in pre-K to high school in school environments. FCRR faculty have an established record of working with schools, districts, and the State's Department of Education to address questions of interest to educators and policy makers. FCRR faculty also have an established record of developing widely used, commercially available standardized assessments for evaluating reading-related skills. Graduate fellows will benefit from access to the rich opportunities provided by working with FCRR faculty on ongoing research projects and from access to the significant databases and projects conducted under the auspices of FCRR's collaborative activity with the State of Florida.