Mason’s education policy center expanding research outreach to state and local partners


George Mason University’s Center for Education Policy, rebranded in 2018 as EdPolicyForward, has been partnering with the Virginia Department of Education, school districts and other entities to help with research and gaining a better understand of gaps in learning, attendance and levels of achievement.

“With our wealth of expertise on educational policy issues, we have a lot to offer in terms of providing research and quantitative analysis,” said Matthew P. Steinberg, director of EdPolicyForward and an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). The center includes more than a dozen affiliated faculty.

Steinberg recently partnered with Lauren Sartain, a faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to analyze data from Chicago Public Schools. They found that Chicago teacher performance benchmarks may be penalizing Black educators. The study, which Steinberg led, concludes that the classroom observation scores for Black teachers may be penalizing them for working in schools in communities serving low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.

In addition, EdPolicyForward recently came out with the results of its first research project partnering with the Virginia Department of Education. The report found that advanced math class enrollment for ninth-grade Black students and students who qualify for free or reduced lunches in Virginia public schools increased every year over a four-year span. However, the report also found that rural ninth-grade students were less likely to enroll in advanced math classes than urban students.

“We learned through this study that Virginia public schools have gotten better in providing access to advanced math courses,” said Samantha Viano, an assistant professor at CEHD who led the study. “This is important because attendance in advanced math courses is a good indicator of college and career readiness. On the other hand, in rural areas, we saw stagnation when it came to advanced math classes.”

Housed within the College of Education and Human Development, EdPolicyForward’s mission is to promote equity and improved educational outcomes for all students, preschool through college and beyond. EdPolicyForward says it connects research to policy and practice, developing and advancing effective and pragmatic solutions, as well as driving meaningful public discourse on closing achievement gaps in the educational system.

Steinberg hopes to see even more partnerships going forward with state and local entities, as well as education associations, in need of equity-focused research.

“We value the partnerships we have developed so far and are working to leverage our training and research capacity to help address issues that school districts throughout the country are facing,” said Steinberg.