An alliance between college and university research centers in 25 different states promises to increase availability and access to more resources on educational policy issues.

The University of Utah's Education Policy Center is one of 35 university education research centers nationally that have formed the Education Policy Alliance.

"It not only broadens our background but also gives us an affiliation and relationship with other centers doing research and evaluation work," said Andrea Rorrer, director of UEPC at the U. When questions dealing with various education policy issues are presented, the networked centers can draw upon each other's previous research and use it as a springboard for their own research.

"It would provide a starting point for us when we're looking for what research has been done," Rorrer said.

Alliance co-founders believe that the nationwide network of university-based research centers will provide better access to "high-quality research on the nation's most important education policy and practice issues," as stated on the EPA Web site.

"EPA places research from some of the country's most expert sources into the hands of journalists, policymakers, researchers and concerned citizens," said Kevin Welner, EPA co-founder and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Rorrer said the effort "recognizes the importance of affiliating and collaborating with other evidence-based centers across the country to improve educational policies locally and nationally." She said the hope of the alliance is to further democratic deliberation and create open discussion regarding educational policies.

Most recently, the center has been called upon to study issues affecting Utah schools, such as the president's mandate of No Child Left Behind, achievement gaps, school governance, teacher compensation and private school vouchers, among others.

"It provides research to interested parties basically to improve decisions made in education," Rorrer said.

The alliance is a way of networking researchers and centers working on similar issues, connecting policy development and practice.

"It's a straightforward but extraordinarily useful resource," said Alex Molnar, another co-founder of the EPA and professor at Arizona State University. The alliance was developed by the Education and the Public Interest Center, the Education Policy Research Unit and the Commercialism in Education Research Unit at Arizona State University to further democratic deliberation regarding educational policies.

"We want to provide research-based evidence for educators and policymakers, to be a resource for education requests from the community, and to bridge relationships with other institutions here in Utah and across the country," Rorrer said.

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