Originally published on the Urban Edge Blog.

Ryan Holeywell | @RyanHoleywell | December 1, 2015

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Dr. Paula Arce-Trigatti

The Kinder Institute for Urban Research has hired a director for the newly formed National Education Research-Practice Partnerships (NERPP) – a network of research institutions and public school districts that have partnered to connect education research and policy in about 13 cities nationwide.

Dr. Paula Arce-Trigatti will serve as the director of NERPP, effective Jan. 1. Arce-Trigatti currently serves as a post-doctoral fellow at Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance, which studies New Orleans schools and provides guidance on which policies work best for its students. She earned a master’s in applied economics from Florida State University and a doctorate in economics from the University of Houston.

“I’m excited this organization is happening,” Arce-Trigatti said of NERPP. “There’s an immense need for it. The network can transmit knowledge, learning, and best practices, and get them to the people who are trying to improve schools.”

In communities across the country, urban school districts and research institutions are pooling their resources and skills to help improve their understanding of which strategies yield the best results in public schools.

Building off of earlier efforts to connect partnerships across the country, the Kinder Institute helped to form NERPP earlier this year to develop existing school district-research institution partnerships and help form new ones. Cities that are already participating in the NERPP network include Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

The network is funded by grants from several foundations including: the William T. Grant Foundation ($300,000); the Laura & John Arnold Foundation ($200,000); the Wallace Foundation ($150,000); and the Annie E. Casey Foundation ($50,000).

“I am thrilled that Paula will be the first director of NERPP,” said Professor Ruth López Turley, associate director of research at the Kinder Institute. “She has great management skills, and she is an excellent communicator with both academic researchers and district leaders. She understands these partnerships well and has great ideas for how the national network will support and develop them.”

Historically, administrators who run public school districts and academic researchers who study them have not always collaborated closely. In recent years, however, those relationships have been improving. Since 2011, research institution-school district research partnerships have met regularly to discuss their findings. But until NERPP was created, there was no formal mechanism by which they could collaborate.

By choosing Arce-Trigatti to direct NERPP, the network ensures that its leader is someone who is already very familiar with the work of research institution-school district partnerships. At Tulane’s Education Research Alliance, Arce-Trigatti’s research has focused on how schools respond in a market-based schooling system. The organization’s research on reforms of the New Orleans school systems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has been widely cited by researchers and the media.

In its first year, NERPP will focus on recruiting partnerships for membership, identifying liaisons from each partnership, and hosting a national meeting so members can share research and best practices. NERPP will also work to support the creation of new partnerships in cities that currently lack them and develop a framework for conducting and sharing comparative research across school systems.

“I like to connect ideas and people,” Arce-Trigatti said. “This network is helping to support that knowledge transfer.”