Rennie Launches New School-Based R&D Lab Project

In many sectors, research and development (R&D) is an integral part of day-to-day operations. In healthcare, for example, research often happens in hospitals right alongside patient care. This gives researchers and practitioners the ability to test evidence-based innovations in real-life situations, draw lessons from those experiences, and apply results in the hospital setting in a sustainable and scalable way.

Research doesn’t look like this in K-12 education. Of course there is ample research focused on education–the Rennie Center is a prime example of that. But there is no formal system for research and development within schools themselves. Every day, in classrooms across Massachusetts, educators are testing new and innovative ideas with their students. But without a formal structure or dedicated support system, these ideas often fail to gain attention or traction at the district and state level, and they rarely serve as a basis for driving systemic change. Most of the time, these ideas go no further than the school in which they were created, and others remain unaware of their promise. 

We want to change that. In order to address glaring and persistent gaps in opportunities and outcomes for students, it is critical to build into the structure of education a better approach to identifying, adapting, and spreading effective practices. We want schools to have functioning R&D operations with the resources, time, and support they need to really explore and activate new ideas. 

For that reason, we are launching the Rennie R&D Labs, a first-of-its-kind endeavor to fully embed research processes within our mainstream public school system. Our team will work with educators to test new practices and apply lessons learned, while working closely with policymakers and practitioners to scale successful outcomes.

To begin, we are recruiting partner schools and districts to design and test practitioner-led innovations. Our team will equip and champion teams of innovative educators, providing hands-on support from researchers and continuous improvement experts to develop new approaches to learning, measure results, communicate findings, and manage shifts in practice. This support will build on the work that teams are already doing to identify and implement effective instructional strategies while incubating more innovative approaches to address persistent challenges. Ultimately, this work will support schools to build sustainable, long-term structures for R&D work. 

Next, our team will help to share these research findings with practitioners across the field. Through online resources, research briefs, and workshops, we will ensure lessons learned from our R&D labs are shared with educators throughout the Commonwealth. 

Finally, we will bring these findings to the state level, engaging with state and local policymakers through meetings, policy briefs, public events, and more to ensure the most effective practices uncovered through our school-based R&D labs inform and drive systemic change.

Educators are on the front lines of efforts to create a more equitable and effective education system. It’s time we gave them the resources to be on the front lines of R&D as well. Our team is thrilled to be leading this critical effort and we will be sharing more as the project unfolds. 

In the meantime, please share our application with any K-12 schools, districts, or educators who may be interested in being one of the first school-based R&D labs in Massachusetts!