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William T. Grant Foundation Funds MSU Research

The William T. Grant Foundation invests in research with the potential to advance theory, policy, and practice related to children and youth.

MSU Research

The William T. Grant Foundation was established in 1936 by William Thomas Grant, founder of the national chain of W.T. Grant Stores. Mr. Grant believed human relationships and the environment were powerful forces in shaping our abilities to lead successful lives and that the role of philanthropy should be to understand and prevent social problems. Guided by the vision of its founder, the William T. Grant Foundation invests in research with the potential to advance theory, policy, and practice related to children and youth in the United States.

Friends of the Court
Dr. Patricia Marin, assistant professor of higher education at MSU, and colleagues will use nearly $400,000 from the William T. Grant foundation to study how amici (friends of the court) use research evidence when developing briefs and filing opinions.

Amici serve as important intermediaries in the court system and frequently use research when developing briefs. Marin, along with Catherine Horn (University of Houston), Liliana Garces (Penn State) and Karen Miksch (University of Minnesota) will examine the various ways in which research is used by amici in the Fisher v. University of Texas affirmative action case. Initially filed in federal court, Fisher was appealed to the Supreme Court and remanded back to the Fifth Circuit. A range of organizations filed briefs – government entities, colleges and universities, businesses and individuals. Marin and colleagues will examine how these parties engaged with research when preparing their briefs. The research team will also analyze, using social network analysis complemented with latent class analysis, how connections between researchers and the organizations influence the acquisition of research as well as how it was interpreted and used. The investigators will review court documents; survey researchers; and conduct interviews with counsels of record and other key decision makers.

Networks for New Math Teachers
Kenneth Frank, professor of measurement and quantitative methods, and a team including MSU colleague Kristen Bieda, associate professor of mathematics education, received a nearly $600,000 grant to study social networks for novice math teachers. The researchers suggest that new teachers may turn to colleagues to discuss content, interpret expectations about lesson planning, and/or understand how the demands of the evaluation system translate to practice. Thus, knowledge of math and norms regarding instruction in a new teacher’s network may impact the quality of the novice’s practice.

Also collaborating on the three-year project are Peter Youngs of University of Virginia (a former MSU faculty member) and Serena Salloum of Ball State University.

Private support and impact on the teacher quality debate
Using a $277,895, two-year grant from the New York-based William T. Grant Foundation, scholars from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan will investigate how privately funded research may shape the debate on teacher quality.

Sarah Reckhow, MSU assistant professor of political science, is principal investigator on the research project. She and Megan Tompkins-Stange, a researcher at U-M, contend that foundation-funded research affects the areas of teacher quality and teacher effectiveness by introducing new concepts into the policy discourse, raising awareness of issues, providing language to frame the policy responses and reducing uncertainty about complex topics.
Study participants will include foundations that conduct research, researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders such as teacher union leaders. The researchers will interview stakeholders and examine research reports, media coverage, congressional hearings and public debate. Then they’ll analyze how policy ideas gain ground and travel through social networks.

Reckhow was recently named one of the most influential education scholars in the nation by Education Week.

Investigating How Schools Find and Use Research
Parents and policy-makers around the country urge teachers and school administrators to use the latest research and best practices of education researchers. But schools must make informed decisions. With a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation, two MSU social science faculty will study how schools learn about new research findings, from both inside and outside schools, and make decisions about putting new findings to use in classrooms.

Dr. Jennifer Watling Neal of the MSU Department of Psychology and Dr. Zachary P. Neal of the Department of Sociology have received a grant of $540,000 to embark on a major study of these matters. They will conduct surveys and observations of school administrators and intermediaries between schools and researchers to learn how schools are finding and using education research. The goal is to answer two basic and important questions: (1) how and when do schools find out about new research findings, from both inside and outside the schools, and (2) how do schools try to put new findings to use in classrooms, focusing in particular on the role of intermediaries between schools and researchers.