The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded APA and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) a $2 million grant to create a Postdoctoral Education Research Training Program (APA/IES PERT) intended to increase the number of psychologists who conduct school-based educational research.
The program will fund 13 two-year postdoctoral fellowships for psychologists with prior research experience in schools. Fellows, each of whom will receive a $55,000 stipend, will learn how to design school-based studies on such issues as quality teaching and learning in K-12 education. They will also serve in school-based research settings and be matched with mentor psychologists who have expertise in educational research and hold a research grant from IES, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Science Foundation.
The program is well-timed since, according to a study by APA's Research Office, the field faces a shortage of psychologists conducting educational research. Indeed, the number of new educational psychologists engaged in research shrunk by nearly half from 1989 to 2001.
The new program will help counter this trend and increase the visibility of education research within psychology by attracting more psychological scientists, says Cynthia Belar, PhD, executive director of APA's Education Directorate, which will administratively house the new program.
Psychologists' methodological expertise in transforming education into evidence-based research is important in addressing today's educational issues, says Grover "Russ" Whitehurst, PhD, IES director and U.S. assistant secretary of education.
"I hope and expect that this is the first of several initiatives that will increase such researchers," Whitehurst says. "I think the result will be a new generation of researchers that have the necessary skills to provide solutions to the pressing issues that face education."
Project leader Rena Subotnik, PhD, director of APA's Center for Psychology in Schools, says APA's partnership with the U.S. Department of Education will help more psychologists recognize such pressing issues in education research as access to schools and teacher preparation. Subotnik says that it's through Belar's leadership that the Education Directorate has been able to establish such key relationships within the U.S. Department of Education that helped APA attain the grant to start the program.