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June 03, 2005

what's going on at the office

Every now and then, I post a summary of what's going on in my work life. These summaries seem worthwhile, since often people email me to ask practical questions connected to what I've written. So here goes ...

CIRCLE has been basically operating for the last two years on large grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Both grants expire at the end of this month. However, we have pending grant proposals that, if approved, will carry us for another two years. I have been working hard on those proposals. We are also trying to diversify our funding, both for financial reasons and to allow us to move into other subfields. For instance, we are working with an excellent colleague in our College of Education to develop a large research project on the effects of studying history and civics at the early grades. We hypothesize that studying those subjects will help students to perform well on standard, "high-stakes" reading assessments. In all, we have 11 proposals either pending or in development.

CIRCLE will be searching for two new full-time people. I can't post the job descriptions until the University approves them, but we will be advertising shortly.

One of CIRCLE's jobs is to analyze youth voting statistics. Until last week, we could only use exit poll data for 2004; and exit polls have certain limitations and flaws. Last week, the Census Bureau suddenly released its November 2004 survey, which asks questions about voting. My CIRCLE colleagues (without much help from me), quickly crunched the numbers and produced new turnout data based on the Census. The story is basically the same as what we have been saying since November, although it actually looks slightly better for youth. They didn't just keep pace with the overall turnout increase; they surpassed it. See this pdf for details.

CIRCLE also released a major new study of service-learning this week. ("Service-learning" means a combination of community service and academic work on the same topic.) The study finds that service-learning does not compete with rote, boring social studies. The teachers who don't use service-learning often employ other interactive and creative techniques, such as debates and research projects. On average, service-learning produces about the same results as the alternatives. But there is greater variation among the service-learning classrooms, with some doing much better than average and some much worse. This is the pdf.

We are planning a major public meeting at the National Press Club to examine the potential of high school reform for civic education. The date is July 6, and everyone is welcome to attend. We will post a full agenda soon. In the meantime, you can email dsapienz@umd.edu to reserve a spot in the audience.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I'm working with 11 undergraduates who are in residence for the next six works and being paid for 180 hours of community research. Their results will feed into the Prince George's Information Commons website. They are supposed to present plans for their summer today. Meanwhile, high school students are working on a video documentary about nutrition in their immigrant community, but I haven't been seeing them regularly--three excellent grad students have been managing that work on my behalf.

The Deliberative Democracy Consortium will hold its annual "researchers and practitioners meeting" in Washington in two weeks. I'm on the planning committee and will also help to present some research results based on interviews of activists from the developing world.

Posted by peterlevine at June 3, 2005 08:00 AM

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