Press Releases

Harvard University to Partner with TN to Transform Student Data Systems

Press release from Department of Education; Jan. 25, 2012:

Tennessee Department of Education Partners with Harvard University, Ed Pioneers to Invest in Data

NASHVILLE – Complementing the work underway to transform its data systems, the Tennessee Department of Education is partnering with Harvard University and education reform nonprofit Education Pioneers to invest in high-quality data training and expertise.

Department employees Emily Robertson and Diane Perhac have been selected by Harvard officials as Strategic Data Project Agency Fellows, and will be joined by two nationally recruited Data Fellows. For two years, the Data and Agency fellows will work on ways to more effectively use research and data to improve education outcomes for kids in Tennessee.

“In my position as a statistical research specialist, this fellowship will help me improve my analytical and leadership skills,” Perhac said. “For instance, I’d like to study the achievement of schools in various feeder patterns to make sure our best teachers are placed in schools where they can have the greatest impact on student achievement.”

The department of education also was chosen to host two Education Pioneers Analyst Fellows for 10 months. The Analyst Fellowship identifies early career professionals who have at least two years of work experience at top-tier private-sector firms and have demonstrated exceptional analytic, quantitative and project management skills. They are placed in select locations, where they lead and manage strategic, data-based projects.

“That Tennessee was selected for these prestigious fellowships recognizes the ambitious reform work underway, and the belief from our partner organizations that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Erin O’Hara, assistant commissioner for data and communications. “Effectively using the data we have available to us is critical to improving student achievement.”

Through the Harvard partnership, Robertson and Perhac will work with the Data Fellows to enhance the analytical skills of existing staff and deepen the focus on using data to drive decisions throughout the department. All of the fellows could work on projects such as a redesign of the state’s Report Card, as well as analysis of Tennessee’s college-going rate and teacher compensation and professional development.

These two fellowships also complement efforts already begun with a group of external research experts at the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development. TNCRED’s review and analysis of Race to the Top projects, such as teacher and principal evaluation, compensation and professional development, work toward the Tennessee Department of Education’s strategy to engage high-quality internal and external researchers in the state and around the country.

“Improving the way we get data back into the hands of teachers and district leaders is one of my key strategic priorities for this department, and all of these projects support that goal,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “I look forward to working with Harvard and Education Pioneers to improve education in Tennessee.”

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