The Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE) established in 1986 by the Board of Trustees of Teachers College, Columbia University, is an interdisciplinary policy research center that focuses its attention on the interaction between education and the economy. The foundation of this focus was articulated in The Double Helix of Education and the Economy, written in 1992 by the institute's former and current directors, which analyzed the relationship between changes in the economy and the need for a fundamental rethinking of our educational system. IEE is directed by Thomas Bailey, the George and Abby O'Neill Professor of Economics and Education in the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University.
IEE conducts a rigorous program of research and policy analysis and provides intellectual leadership on the implications of changes in the economy and labor markets for all levels of our education and training systems. To achieve its objectives, the Institute has mobilized a broad range of research talent and disciplinary perspectives, including economics, anthropology, sociology, political science, education, and cognitive science.
IEE conducts research primarily in two areas. The first is education reform, particularly that which is designed to respond to changing economic and employment needs. The second involves changes in work, technology, and work organization, and the implications of those changes for the performance of organizations and the skill needs and well-being of the workforce.
IEE has examined the implications of changes in work for education and studied the educational value of work itself. These interests have been the basis of research on the school-to-work model, employer participation in education, learning on the job, and skill standards.
One of these projects, a survey of employers who participate in school-to-work programs, sponsored by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education (NCRVE), received significant media coverage.
In concert with other employer surveys, the research showed that employer involvement is more extensive than had been believed. In fact, related fieldwork, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts, found that student recruitment to these programs is sometimes a larger challenge than employer recruitment.
This study of employers led to an interest in examination of pedagogy for work-based learning. Researchers have been studying the ways in which school personnel oversee internships and create complementary classroom-based assignments and activities, as well as observing student interns on the job. A IEE paper, Pedagogical Strategies for Work-Based Learning, gives guidance as to how to achieve quality internships, by laying out a framework through which an educator might analyze the situated pedagogy of a particular work context, and describing methods used in schools to ensure that students' work experiences yield learning. The different ways work-based learning is organized at the workplace and how it can be enhanced in the classroom are explored. This research contributed to the understand of practices that make work valuable as an educational experience. Data from both studies are compiled into a comprehensive book, Working Knowledge: Work-based Learning and Education Reform.
IEE also houses the Community College Research Center (CCRC), created in 1996 with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The mission of the CCRC is to frame critical questions concerning the fundamental purposes, problems, and performances of community colleges, and to chart a course for strengthening scholarly research on the future of these important institutions.
IEE has studied many aspects of the innovative work organization, emphasizing the types of training and education needed to make those innovations effective. But the reality is that innovative workplaces have been slow to spread, and so IEE has also examined the broader question of the quality of employment in post-industrial America--in particular, whether there will be enough good jobs for young people even if education reforms are successful. Several projects have focused on understanding low-wage labor markets, where problems of skill acquisition, lack of upward mobility, and shortsighted firm strategies dominate.
In order to address these problems, IEE researchers analyzed what a more comprehensive national labor market policy might look like, one that includes education and training but that also ensures access to job security and quality jobs for workers without a bachelor's degree. A workshop on the topic, sponsored by the William T. Grant Foundation, was held in 1997. The report of this workshop, Making Careers out of Jobs: Policies to Address the New Employment Relationship, written by IEE researchers, defined a basic policy framework that emphasizes both supply-side and demand-side responses.
Another study, supported by the Rockefeller and Russell Sage Foundations, compared the early work experiences of individuals in the 1970s with those of the 1980s. IEE researchers found that in the 1980s and 1990s young workers' transition to the labor market had become more volatile and was taking longer.
Throughout its history, IEE has always emphasized applied research. Its work has been motivated by the goal of helping to change schools and workplaces so that they can form the foundation of more productive and satisfying lives for students and workers and can lead to higher standards of living, especially for those who now face the greatest disadvantages in the economy and labor market. IEE is particularly well placed to carry out its agenda due to its participation in the national discussions of education reform, work reform, and changes in the nature of work.
In conjunction with its research, IEE has worked directly with state and local level agencies, as well as with schools and educators through technical assistance and evaluation in an effort to help strengthen education programs. In that role, IEE has conducted on-site reviews, provided speakers and compilations of research, and led workshops and conferences.
Locally, IEE has worked closely with LaGuardia Community College, City as School, and High School of Economics and Finance while conducting research on employer participation in school-to-work programs. IEE participates in the New York City Board of Career and Technical Education, and evaluated efforts to improve the city's vocational high schools. IEE conducted an extensive evaluation of the effectiveness of the city's magnet schools in order to help the schools and programs use their industry focus to strengthen the academic achievement and motivation of their students. IEE also evaluated the Ohio pilot school-to-work programs, and created an evaluation handbook for local use.
IEE provides briefings, speeches, and background papers tailored to the needs of particular agencies. The Institute has worked with members of Congress and committee staffs; state governors, legislators; and agencies, leaders of corporate and educational organizations; cabinet-level officials and their staffs in the Departments of Commerce, Education and Labor; local educators, boards of education and school superintendents; and multinational policy task forces. The Institute facilitates communication between the worlds of education and business in the belief that long-term solutions to human resource problems require their collaboration. IEE helps businesses articulate their workforce problems to educators and policy leaders who are trying to improve schools. The Institute also works with educators to help them involve employers in school-to-work transition and other educational programs.
A core function of the Institute is to produce the written record of its research and policy analyses. Institute research findings and policy recommendations are disseminated to a wide audience and intended to impact educational policies and programs at the local, state, and national levels. Findings and recommendations are communicated through the IEE Web site, full-length and summary reports as well as specifically tailored publications, academic and popular journal articles, conference organization and participation, and meetings with professionals in industry, academia, and the world of education.
Institute on Education and the Economy, Teachers College, Columbia University
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