What if a School Doubled as a Think Tank?

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What if there was a school that married practice and policy in education? These two worlds often live far apart, which results in ineffective programs and proposals for education reform.

As a fresh college graduate working in a start-up school, I have had the unique position of observing education as a student in the classroom and as a staff member in a school. The difference between the two? As a student, I explored philosophical questions in education such as the history of education, the issue of school segregation and the contentious charter-public school debate. As a staff member however, supporting students, families, and external partners leaves little room to focus on the big-picture philosophical thinking I was able to explore as an undergrad. Over time, this creates an interesting paradox - those who work in schools and have some of the most intimate knowledge of education are not plugged into education news or policy cycles because a majority of their time is focused on the day to day operations of running a school. Therefore, we lose important stakeholders and experts in the education reform process.

But what if there was a school that doubled as a think tank? I envision a school that houses researchers that work with teachers and school leaders to identify policy problems, conduct research and produce policy proposals that are directly informed by the school environment. By providing a school as a grounds for both instruction and research, researchers can gain more insight into the field of education in practice. Too often, policies are created by people who possess an intellectual understanding of education, but lack an understanding of education in practice. By creating a school that doubles as a think tank, teachers, school leaders and researchers can collaborate to produce more effective and informed policy proposals.

Too often, the education and policy worlds work in isolation despite their clear connection to one another. Combing a school with a think tank may be a collaborative, sustainable and bold idea for education reform.

Nasrin Jafari