AIR and McKenzie Group Join Forces in Push for Urban School Reform

Washington, D.C. – The American Institutes for Research, one of the nation’s leading education research organizations, is acquiring The McKenzie Group, Inc., an influential educational consulting firm, in a move designed to better serve the needs of urban school districts seeking systemic reform.

AIR, a non-profit organization founded in 1946, is a leader in behavioral and social science research. The McKenzie Group was founded in 1988 by Floretta Dukes McKenzie, a nationally-recognized urban reform leader who served as Superintendent and Chief State School Officer for Washington, D.C. Public Schools.

"This is an important and welcome addition to our efforts to make a difference in improving education,” said Sol Pelavin, President and CEO of AIR, an independent, nonpartisan organization. “The expertise offered by The McKenzie Group will strengthen our urban school reform efforts.”

McKenzie, who also served as Deputy Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Education and Deputy Superintendent of public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, welcomed the opportunity to join AIR. “Nothing is more important to the future of this nation than giving its children the best possible education. This union of experience and knowledge contributes to the goal of developing creative solutions that are based on sound research,” she said.

AIR recently announced that it was merging with New American Schools, a nonprofit school improvement group that was created in 1991 as a direct result of an Education Summit called by then-President George H.W. Bush and co-chaired by then-Governor Bill Clinton. The merger will be complete in January, 2005.

In addition, several prominent former public school superintendents known for their district reform efforts have joined AIR, including Steven Adamowski, former school superintendent in Cincinnati; Anthony Cavanna, who served as superintendent of school districts in New York and New Jersey; Libia Socorro Gil, former superintendent in Chula Vista, Calif.; Joseph Olchefske, the former superintendent of schools in Seattle, Wash.; and Maria Santory Guasp, former superintendent in New York City Schools and a senior official for districts in California.

A sample of AIR’s work to improve student outcomes in education includes:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: AIR is taking the lead in evaluating the Foundation’s national school networks grants, national districts grants, technical assistance grants and assessment development grant programs. In addition, AIR experts are assisting the Foundation in a detailed evaluation of its Early College High School Initiative.

No Child Left Behind: AIR is participating in two four-year longitudinal evaluations of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government’s most sweeping change to public education in a generation. In the national study, AIR is examining four key components of NCLB: accountability, teacher quality, choice, and resource allocation.  In the separate state study, the issues of accountability and teacher quality will be examined in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The studies will serve as a major source of data for the National Assessment of Title I, and will culminate in a report to Congress.

Ohio K-8 Student Assessment: The Ohio Department of Education has awarded AIR contracts to develop the state’s assessment programs for Kindergarten through Grade 8. AIR is developing a comprehensive system of diagnostic and achievement tests in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Projects involving The McKenzie Group include:

The National Science Foundation: McKenzie experts are providing a wide range of technical assistance services to the Systemic Initiatives (SI) - a multi-year national effort to reform mathematics and science education in over 30 urban school districts throughout the country. McKenzie is assisting the districts with leadership development, strategic planning and fiscal reporting.

The Environmental Protection Agency: McKenzie is developing a variety of creative, cross-curricular, and standards-based materials for the agency's SunWise School Program, designed to educate young people about ozone depletion and the harmful effects of overexposure to the sun. The mission includes developing a range of materials, in both English and Spanish, to disseminate as part of a federal effort to increase the percentage of schools participating in the program.

Howard University Middle School: McKenzie is assisting Howard University with the development of a middle school of mathematics and science. The McKenzie team is working with the university to establish the academic design, performance standards, and operational systems of the school, which is due to open in fall 2005.

The American Institutes for Research, founded in 1946, is a leader in the behavioral and social sciences. AIR is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization engaged in domestic and international research, development, evaluation, analysis, product development, training and technical assistance and assessment.

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