Established in 1996, under the direction of Paul E. Peterson (Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government) PEPG has rapidly distinguished itself as a significant player within the educational reform movement. Having supplemented the program leadership with the addition of Deputy Director Martin R. West (Associate Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education) and through the support of its institutional sponsors—the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Government in Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences—PEPG continues to fulfill its core missions:
• Provide high-level scientific training for young scholars who can make independent contributions to scholarly research.
PEPG's Fellowship program was initiated to attract top masters, doctoral and postdoctoral students to quantitative-based research of issues in education reform at Harvard. The program has been a resounding success since its inception in 2002. These fellows have collaborated on some of PEPG's most important research papers and in organizing program conferences. Past fellows currently hold tenured and tenure-track positions at major colleges, universities and research centers in the United States and abroad. In addition to these fellows, PEPG has worked with numerous Harvard University graduate students and undergraduates, who have contributed substantially to program events and research through their work as PEPG research fellows.
• Foster a national community of reform-minded scientific researchers.
With the establishment of Education Next, PEPG has helped to create a distinguished outlet for policy-relevant reflection by education practitioners, professors, and renowned journalists. By hosting numerous national conferences on issues ranging from school choice to school board politics, the program has brought together some of the nation's most respected education researchers and legal scholars on an annual basis. And with the initiation of the PEPG Education Policy Colloquium Series in 2004, the program has provided a more intimate forum to nurture an interest in education research within the Harvard community.
• Produce path-breaking studies that provide a scientific basis for school reform policy.
With the publication of The Education Gap: Vouchers in Urban Schools (Brookings, 2002), Paul Peterson and William Howell capped six years of PEPG's rigorous evaluation of voucher programs in New York City; Dayton, Ohio; and Washington D.C.— to name only a few. In 2003, Paul Peterson and Marty West served as editors for the first scholarly volume to assess the accountability movement, No Child Left Behind?: The Politics and Practice of Accountability (Brookings, 2003). In 2005, Peterson and West authored "The Efficacy of Choice Threats within School Accountability Systems," the first independent study to examine the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on the test-score performance of individual students.
In 2012, the widely cited report Achievement Growth by Peterson, Eric Hanushek (Stanford) and Ludger Woessmann (University of Munich) found that student achievement gains in the U.S. fail to close the international achievement gap — the U.S. ranked 25th out of 49 countries in student test-score gains over a 14-year period. In a separate report, The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City, also by Peterson and Matthew Chingos (Brookings), found large effects for African Americans. The first systematic study of school vouchers and college enrollment also reported college enrollment increases of 24 percent for those who attended a private school with the help of a voucher.
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