SESP Launches New Research-Practice Partnership with $5.8-Million Grant

New partnership connects Northwestern researchers with Curriculum Associates and school districts to better understand and address learning needs

North Billerica, MA, September 14, 2021

Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) received a $5.8-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support an innovative partnership that links University researchers and Curriculum Associates, a leading provider of digital assessment and instructional materials, with several school districts.

The grant will support the Center for Education Efficacy, Excellence, and Equity (E4) housed at the School of Education and Social Policy. E4, which will host four visiting early career scholars each year, will further the work of researchers and graduate students from across campus. It also connects closely with the Center for Computer Science and Learning Sciences, a collaboration between SESP and Northwestern Engineering.

The researchers will tackle a wide range of issues that may include the learning patterns of students from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, the impact of tutoring on student learning, how chronic absenteeism affects achievement, social-emotional learning, pathways to success in algebra, and more.

“Our research-practice partnership brings together Northwestern’s research capabilities, Curriculum Associates’ expertise and research on the way students learn, and the specific needs of partnering school districts,” said Paul Goren, the inaugural director of E4, former superintendent of Evanston/Skokie District 65, and former senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation. “It will help create relevant research-based solutions for educators and decision-makers in real time.”

Researchers often work with data from standardized tests, but these insights typically aren’t available until months later. The delay makes it tough to draw timely conclusions and help those with the greatest needs.

“Education research has limited access to the kinds of real-time teaching and learning data at scale that, combined with real-time assessment data, would allow us to ask critical questions about how students learn and how to best support learning for students who are struggling,” said School of Education and Social Policy dean David Figlio. “The Gates Foundation investment in SESP and Curriculum Associates will create what is bound to be a state-of-the-art applied research center focused on education improvement.”

Figlio’s discussions with Curriculum Associates CEO and Northwestern alumnus Rob Waldron led to the development of this unique collaboration. For Curriculum Associates, the partnership fits perfectly with the company’s mission and current research efforts.

“We know that providing timely data to educators on their students’ performance helps teachers move students toward grade-level learning,” Waldron said. “We are uniquely positioned to contribute CA’s expertise and innovative approach to understanding student learning patterns, an especially critical need given the impact of COVID-19 on students across the country.”

E4 is part of the School of Education and Social Policy’s commitment to provide rigorous evidence to improve K–12 education to address the inequities built into education systems by leveraging the speed at which digital platforms generate quality representative data.

Curriculum Associates reaches more than 11 million elementary school-aged students in the US through research-based print and online instructional materials and assessments, including i-Ready Diagnostic and i-Ready Personalized Instruction. Educators have access to their students’ performance data through Curriculum Associates’ data management tools that help teachers understand learning growth in their classrooms as well as pinpointing areas for instructional improvement.

About Curriculum Associates
Founded in 1969, Curriculum Associates, LLC designs research-based print and online instructional materials, screens and assessments, and data management tools. The company’s products and outstanding customer service provide teachers and administrators with the resources necessary for teaching diverse student populations and fostering learning for all students.



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