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SERP Institute was founded as a result of several studies conducted at the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences. Motivating the studies was a driving question: why has scientific research had so profound an influence on practice in fields such as medicine and agriculture, and so little influence on practice in education?
The SERP enterprise was conceived in three reports:
Improving Student Learning: A Strategic Plan for Education Research and Its Utilization (1999)
Strategic Education Research Partnership (2003)
Learning and Instruction: A SERP Research Agenda (2003)
Experts from other sectors made a compelling case that research that influences practice often begins in practice settings; through observations of the unexpected, new ideas and theories are generated. Exposure to routine practice also provides opportunities to identify ways in which research knowledge can be crafted into improvements in practice. Finally, problems of practice do not know disciplinary boundaries. Tackling them effectively requires a practice context in which researchers with a variety of areas of expertise can work collaboratively on problem-solving.
Because education does not have the equivalent of teaching hospitals in medicine, or agricultural extension stations, the NRC Committee recommended the establishment of an independent organization with a mission to create field sites—long term partnerships with school districts where problems of practice would be the focus, and researchers and designers would be recruited to collaborate with practitioners and designers. In 2003, the SERP Institute was created as an independent 501 (c)(3) to carry out that mission.
The first SERP partnership was with Boston Public Schools. It focused on middle school literacy across content areas. Over time, the partnership generated a middle grades reading assessment, a set of academic literacy programs, an adolescent reading intervention, and an instrument for assessing school coherence and a protocol for strengthening coherence in schools where it is weak. Over the next 15 years, SERP has established field site partnerships with San Francisco Unified School District, districts in the Minority Student Achievement Network, Oakland Unified School District, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the District of Columbia Public Schools. SERP has also worked with numerous other school districts on the implementation and study of programs developed in SERP field sites.
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