The University of Chicago has selected Elaine Allensworth, a nationally recognized expert in applied education research, to serve as the Lewis-Sebring Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research after an extensive search. Allensworth is a longtime leader and researcher at UChicago CCSR, most recently serving as interim director.
“I am very pleased Elaine has agreed to serve as the Urban Education Institute’s Director of UChicago CCSR,” said Timothy Knowles, the John Dewey Director of UChicago UEI. “Elaine's work has had an extraordinary impact on educational policy and practice in Chicago and nationwide. I have every expectation that the next chapter in CCSR's remarkable history will help transform the lives of millions of children across our country.”
Allensworth’s research on the factors that predict whether students will drop out of high school has been particularly influential. Her work has helped shift the local and national conversation about high school graduation from factors that schools cannot control—such as neighborhood poverty and teen pregnancy—to factors that schools can influence: student academic behavior and course performance. In response to her research, Chicago and school systems across the country have set up tracking systems to target students for extra help and critically analyze school practice. In Chicago, these efforts have led to significant drops in freshman-year course failures; graduation rates are also at their highest levels ever and expected to grow based on current estimates.
Allensworth said her vision for UChicago CCSR is to continue and strengthen the organization’s long tradition of producing rigorous, actionable evidence, while also breaking new ground in terms of how the organization reaches policymakers and practitioners.
“We know that the way people access information is constantly evolving, and we need to adjust our own practice accordingly,” Allensworth said. “We are exploring new modes of delivering information, new formats for communicating evidence, new procedures that will allow us to be increasingly nimble and responsive to the needs of practitioners and policymakers, and new opportunities to engage with the top researchers across the country on the most difficult issues in educational improvement.”
Allensworth was a key contributor to the seminal UChicago CCSR study that examined the ways in which school organizational structures interact with community conditions to lead schools to improve or stagnate. The resulting book, Organizing Schools for Improvement, has received considerable praise nationally and internationally. Educational Researcher called it the “most important research on urban schools in the past decade.” The Organizing Schools research serves as a base for a survey and school improvement tool that is now being implemented throughout the state of Illinois, and in a number of districts across the country, including Detroit and the Twin Cities.
Allensworth also has become a key player on the national school reform stage, serving on national panels, policy commissions, and technical working groups, including review panels for the Institute of Education Sciences, committees for the National Academies, working groups for the Department of Education, and commissions for state and national policy.
She joined CCSR as a research analyst in 1998 and has been interim director since 2011. She received a PhD in sociology at Michigan State and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Kent State University.
UChicago CCSR conducts research on Chicago Public Schools designed to drive school improvement in Chicago and nationally. It has become a national model for conducting place-based research on public schools and is contributing to the incubation of applied research centers in 20 major urban centers across the country. New York City, Newark, Kansas City, and Baltimore already have established research consortia based on UChicago CCSR's work, and Texas has launched a 19-school district consortium.