Stanford's Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA), an independent research center, unites an interdisciplinary array of nationally prominent scholars from across the campus to provide the depth and scale of research needed to affect education policy in meaningful ways. The core researchers are drawn from the fields of economics, law, political science, psychology, public policy, and sociology, and currently reside in the schools of Arts and Humanities, Business, Education and Law, as well as at the Hoover Institution. Their rigorous inquiry is based on the empirical realities of schools, well grounded in the needs of policy makers and education practitioners, and aimed directly at improving education for all students.
A special focus of attention of CEPA's long-term research agenda is to examine policies that promote and support highly effective teachers and school leadership, the strategic priorities of the other two centers that comprise the Initiative on Improving K-12 Education. CEPA also looks more broadly at preschool through higher education policy in order to better understand how to promote educational opportunities and students' long-run success. A core part of CEPA's mission is developing the next generation of leading education researchers and policy makers. Some of the best graduate students in the country are now engaged in education policy research and their work holds great promise for the continual improvement of education. Through CEPA these doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows will gain training in rigorous empirical methods, exposure to a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, and a deep understanding of the realities of schools and policy institutions.
Developing New Methodologies
Finding ways to scientifically measure and evaluate what makes a difference in classrooms and schools is central to CEPA's mission. The center concentrates on the development and application of rigorous empirical methods that increase the validity of research, including randomized field trials, detailed observational protocols, enhanced data systems, and improved measurement designed to capture previously unquantifiable factors such as quality of instruction and school leadership. Researchers promote the use of these quantitative tools beyond Stanford, thereby advancing the field and expanding the pool of meaningful evidence to improve education.
Translating Evidence Into Improvement
To advance meaningful change, CEPA makes its work accessible to decision makers, and is working to educate stakeholders and promote public dialogue. In 2006–07, more than 30 researchers, led by Professor Susanna Loeb and a team from Stanford, conducted an unprecedented investigation into California's troubled education system at the request of Governor Schwarzenegger's nonpartisan Committee on Education Excellence. The project is a prime example of how Stanford research can have a measurable impact on the shape of K–12 reform.
Developing the Next Generation of Policy Researchers
CEPA is committed to providing unparalleled training to the next generation of educational thought leaders. Currently, doctoral students across a range of disciplines—from economics and sociology to political science, business, and law—are addressing issues relevant to improving education policy. Too often, however, these students work in isolation from each other and from faculty other than their direct advisor. Until now, no major research university has crafted a program to provide rigorous, coordinated training in education policy evaluation. CEPA is working to change this.
The center is developing a core curriculum for students across schools and departments that incorporates a solid grounding in empirical methods and in the nature of educational institutions and the challenges they face. In addition, the center provides students with rich opportunities to connect with K–12 schools, participate in seminars, and contribute to ongoing research investigations.