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Why CASJE - Ellen Goldring

In "Why CASJE?," members of CASJE's Board of Directors share why they became involved in Jewish education, how they see CASJE as contributing to the field, and other insights related to applied research.

Ellen Goldring (Ph.D, University of Chicago) is Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor and Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. Her research interests focus on the intersection of education policy and school improvement with particular emphasis on education leadership. She is co-author of the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education, a 360-degree rating scale of instructional leadership. A fellow of the American Educational Research Association and Past Vice-President of AERA's Division L-Policy and Politics, her research examines leadership practice, and the implementation and effects of interventions such as professional development, coaching, and performance feedback. She was the principal investigator of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded study examining how principals use teacher effectiveness data for human capital decisions (, and has conducted two randomized experiments with school principals, one evaluating the National Institute for School Leadership, the other a study of an intervention involving principal feedback and coaching. Professor Goldring serves on numerous editorial boards, technical panels, and policy forums. She publishes widely on issues of policy and leadership, and is the co-author of seven books. 

A professional field without a deep empirical knowledge base can only go so far. Why? Because a knowledge base helps determine what practices are most effective; how to measure that effectiveness; and what is worthy of being shared with peers and invested in to scale.

Yet, Jewish Education still is largely in need of a robust set of research studies and communities of researchers to inform its policies and practices. We are a field in need of a deep empirical knowledge base. As we build this, the general education field offers a useful model to examine.

In general education, the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 established the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to support high quality research to improve education. Its stated goal is “the transformation of education into an evidence-based field in which decision makers routinely seek out the best available research and data before adopting programs or practices that will affect significant numbers of students” (Institute of  Education Sciences), and to “conduct and support scientifically valid research activities” (Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002). Since those early days, IES has expanded with new articulations and emphases on relevance, as well as rigor, and new initiatives such as research partnerships and translating research to practice through published practice guides (Cohen-Vogel et al., 2015). 

More recently, an alternative or additional perspective or paradigm of educational research for informing policy and practice is gaining widespread attention amongst researchers and funders, known as Improvement Science or Improvement Research (Bryk et al., 2015; Lewis, 2015; Marshall et al., 2013). Most visible in this arena is the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and its current president, Anthony Bryk. “Improvement science deploys rapid tests of change to guide the development, revision, and continued fine-tuning of new tools, processes, work roles and relationships …The overall goal is to develop the necessary know-how for a reform idea ultimately to spread faster and more effectively” (Bryk et al., 2015, p. 8).     

Notably, these two paradigms of research, “traditional educational research” and “improvement science,” both aim to accomplished similar goals—to improve the practice of education at scale. The recent authorization of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new education law signed by President Obama in December, also steers toward “tiers of evidence” to guide states and districts to adopt research based policies and practices. 

While not without its pitfalls and challenges, the last decade has seen an exciting surge in funding, focus and energy for applied educational research. The WT Grant Foundation’s ongoing program of research on “improving the use of research evidence” is another example of these developments. Commitments to research use include collaborations and partnerships with educational institutions, policymakers and practitioners.  To address the complexities of educational contexts and issues, multiple, mixed methodologies and types of research are valued, all with an eye toward rigor and substance. 

I am involved in CASJE to help develop the funding, focus and energy for this type of rigorous applied research specifically in Jewish Education—research that is substantive and impactful, and can make a difference. I believe that CASJE can learn from the experiences in the field of general education to help shape the infrastructure, capacity and vision for research in Jewish education as well.   



Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to Improve: How America's Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Cohen-Vogel, L., Tichnor-Wagner, A., Allen, D., Harrison, C., Kainz, K., Socol, A. R., & Wang, Q. (2015). Implementing Educational Innovations at Scale: Transforming Researchers into Continuous Improvement Scientists. Educational Policy29(1), 257-277.

Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002. Retrieved from

Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. (2008). U.S. Congress.  Proposed H.R.5754 Retrieved from

Lewis, C. (2015).  What Is Improvement Science? Do We Need It in Education? Educational Researcher, 44: 54-61.

Marshall, M., Pronovost, P., & Dixon-Woods, M. (2013). Promotion of improvement as a science. The Lancet381(9864), 419-421.