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The Future of Children special issue: Research-practice partnerships to strengthen early education

April 29, 2021
by Joanna Meyer

Today, the Future of Children released a special issue focused on research-practice partnerships (RPPs) in early education. The PEER management team is among the contributing authors for this issue on how collaborations between research institutions and education organizations can expand the impact of early education on child and family outcomes.

When PEER was founded in 2014 to strengthen early childhood education in Connecticut by promoting collaboration between researchers and practitioners, we entered a growing community of research-practice partnerships in early childhood education. These collaborative ventures exist in many locations, focus on a range of topics, and vary in how they are structured. As the number of research-practice parnerships increased, those involved and those considering this approach have been interested in what they can learn from one another. Dr. Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia and Dr. Pamela Morris of New York University proposed a Future of Children special issue dedicated to this topic and served as its editors.

PEER’s contribution to the issue is a chapter on how research-practice partnerships establish research agendas, using our experience as an illustration of how research agendas emerge and evolve over time through active effort and in response to partners’ changing needs. Our chapter also explores challenges that often arise in the process of developing and executing a collaborative research agenda, including the evolving priorities of practitioner partners, processes and infrastructure for collaborative research, and alignment between practitioners’ areas of interest and researchers’ areas of expertise.

Other chapters in the issue focus on topics including the collaborative development of decision-making tools that can inform state and district policy in early education, scaling evidence-based interventions in early childhood, increasing the pace of collaborative research, and building infrastructure for collaborative research. Authors represent partnerships focused on large school districts, states, and multi-state initiatives.

Over the course of the project, we have appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with the editors and the other contributors. The authors conference allowed contributors to learn about the work of others and pushed contributors’ thinking about their own work. PEER has benefited from this and other opportunities to learn from and grow with other scholars leading research-practice partnerships around the nation, including conferences and convenings hosted by the Spencer Foundation, Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE), and National Network of Education Research Practice Partnerships (NNERPP).

As PEER approaches the end of its seventh year, our management team remains committed to collaborative research that combines the expertise and perspective of practitioner and research organizations. The research is clear that high-quality early learning experiences influence children’s short- and long-term outcomes and that many children do not have access to such early learning experiences. We are convinced that research-practice partnerships have a crucial role to play in supporting national, state, and local efforts to expand early education so that all children can benefit.

The Future of Children was published by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation from 1991 to 2004, when it transitioned to an editorial team at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. After 30 years of leadership in promoting the use of research to inform policy and programs for children, the journal is being retired. The special issue on RPPs in early education is the final issue.

Submitted by Joanna Meyer on April 28, 2021