Busy As a Bee

January 8, 2011 | Blog


You may have noticed the recent near radio silence from Sara on our blog. No, she isn’t on a secret mission and hasn’t left academia to join the NSA. She, however, has been busy as a bee this past year, starting with giving birth to our daughter, being named a W.T. Grant Scholar, and engaging in important academic research.

My pride in her commitment to, excellence in and passion for issues of educational and social inequality is coupled with a recognition of her unwillingness to see academic research relegated to dusty and sometimes impenetrable academic journals. Sara has been aggressive and public with her research and committed to engaging in and communicating her work in a policy relevant manner. That fits a critical need in public policy conversations.

That’s why I was quite pleased to see Sara’s name mentioned among the ranks of the most prominent academics in the nation in the “EduScholar” rankings issued by the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess. And Sara isn’t even yet a senior scholar nor is she an economist (who are overrepresented). Hess says:

The academy today does a passable job of recognizing good disciplinary scholarship but a pretty mediocre job of recognizing scholars with the full range of skills that enables them to really contribute to the policy debate. Today, there are substantial professional rewards for scholars who do hyper-sophisticated, narrowly conceived research, but little institutional recognition, acknowledgment, or support for scholars who carry their efforts into the public discourse. One result is that the public square is filled by impassioned advocates, while silence reigns among those who may be more versed on the research or more likely to recognize complexities and hard truths.

I think these kinds of metrics are relevant because I believe it’s the scholars who do these kinds of things “who can cross boundaries, foster crucial collaborations, and bring research into the world of policy in smart and useful ways.”

Jay Greene — seeking to give credit to more junior scholars who have had a great impact on contemporary public policy conversations and to move beyond rankings based on a single year (2010) of performance — perfected the Hess rubric, causing Sara’s ranking to increase by about 30 points to #39.

Hotshot researchers like Roland Fryer, Jacob Vigdor, Susanna Loeb, Matthew Springer, Brian Jacob, Jonah Rockoff, and Sara Goldrick-Rab are having a large impact on current education policy discussions even though their careers have not been long enough to accumulate a longer list of books and articles. The original ranking shortchanged these scholars in measuring their current “public presence.”

I agree. As I mentioned in this recent post, advocates who too often simply echo one another’s opinions are too influential in policy debates. There is an important void to be filled by the likes of academic researchers as well as classroom teachers.

Congrats, Sara! Keep up the great work!

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