The University of Michigan announced the launch of the Michigan Education Research Institute and Michigan Education Data Center Tuesday morning, presenting a collaboration between the University, Michigan State University, Michigan Department of Education and Center for Educational Performance and Information.

The new research collaboration and data center will conduct research projects in early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary education and evaluate data to improve performance in public schools across the state. The collaboration creates the opportunity for policy leaders and government officials to work together with top university experts on education and policy analysis.

The Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles said in a University press release the department looks forward to the partnership forged between the two Michigan universities and the state government.

“Becoming a top 10 education state in 10 years takes a knowledge of what is happening in our schools now, learning what has proven successful and using that to develop better practices for all our educators and students,” Alles said.

The Michigan Education Data Center, housed at the Ford School of Public Policy, will host and process educational data given to researchers while protecting students’ private information.

“While ensuring privacy and confidentiality of students’ data, we will be able to learn what works and what doesn’t so our educators can provide the best education for Michigan’s students,” University Public Policy professor Susan Dynarski said in the release.

One of the first projects of the Michigan Education Research Institute plans to conduct is an implementation study of Michigan’s Competency-Based Education Pilot. The study involves surveys of both educators and students, as well as site visits to pilot schools. In the release, Michael Barr, dean of the Public Policy School, said he hopes the research will inform the Department of Education on how to better meet the needs of the schools transitioning to competency-based models

“Our faculty have proven their commitment to applying research to solve education policy challenges, and through MERI will be able to make a big contribution to helping Michigan’s young people,” Barr said.

The initiative is largely funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a private foundation that has focused its donations on the reform of K-12 education, criminal justice and public pension. John Arnold is the founder and former manager of the Houston-based hedge fund Centaurus Advisors, LLC., and Laura Arnold is an attorney and former oil company executive.

“We are so excited to fund this unique collaboration between the state of Michigan, @UMich and @michiganstateu to improve schools by looking at the impact of policies and practices and finding out what works!” the Laura and John Arnold Foundation tweeted Wednesday.


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