Informed decisions on school reform

Ben Superfine

Ben Superfine: pinpointing problems in school reform. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

This year, UIC honors 10 outstanding researchers with the Researcher of the Year Award, a $5,000 cash prize. Five established faculty members were named Distinguished Researchers and five early career scientists were honored as Rising Stars.

Ben Superfine
Rising Star, Social Sciences

Ben Superfine focuses on the most persistent problems in education, those that have thwarted effective school reform for decades.

He sees a disconnect between policy, media coverage and what researchers already know.

“Decisions are made on the basis of political expediency. Often the policy makers don’t know what’s going on,” said Superfine, associate professor of educational policy studies in the College of Education.

“We see policies that don’t reflect what researchers know, based on evidence that politicians assume to be solid.”

To jumpstart a more useful dialogue by giving non-researchers access to current research, Superfine launched the Research on Urban Education Policy Initiative in 2010.

The initiative calls on UIC faculty to analyze problems in education and produce policy briefs, publishes the briefs online and in print, distributes them through email and social media, and organizes conferences to meet with leaders in other sectors who can act on the information.

Superfine’s first step toward was to assemble an advisory board of experts in education, media and civic foundations. He recruited leaders like Terry Mazany of the Chicago Community Trust, Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW 11 and Jim Paul, assistant director of the UI’s Institute for Government and Public Affairs. The board helps determine which briefs should be written and offers peer review, Superfine said.

The first brief, published last fall, discusses how training for preschool educators should differ from teachers of kindergarten through high school. Other recent briefs have addressed the need to train principals in early childhood education, and better ways to prepare urban youth with disabilities for life after high school. The briefs are available online.

“The authors are hearing back from readers,” said Superfine, who plans to publish three more briefs this spring.

Other Researchers of the Year

Natasha Devroye: Rising Star, Natural Sciences & Engineering 

Xiaoping Du: Distinguished Researcher, Basic Life Sciences 

Leon Fink: Distinguished Researcher, Humanities 

Stacie Geller: Distinguished Researcher, Clinical Sciences 

Rachel Havrelock: Rising Star, Humanities 

Seungpyo Hong: Rising Star, Basic Life Sciences

Bing Liu: Distinguished Researcher, Natural Sciences & Engineering 

Krista Varady: Rising Star, Clinical Sciences 

Maria Varelas: Distinguished Researcher, Social Sciences 

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