What is the Improvement Scholars Network? 

The Improvement Scholars Network (ISN) is a diverse community advancing improvement research as an academic field, a domain of professional practice, and a focus of public policy.  

Our community includes educational researchers, practitioners, technical assistance providers, evaluators, and more. The tie that binds members of the ISN is the shared commitment to empowering local educational professionals, families, and communities to heed calls for transformative change that expands educational access, quality, and equity for students. 

What is “improvement research”? 

“Improvement research” is an umbrella term that we use to describe approaches to local innovation that share four key characteristics: 

    • A focus on local educational opportunities, needs, and problems viewed as meaningful and consequential by local educational professionals, families, and communities. 

    • The use of formal approaches to iterative analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation to understand and address local opportunities, needs, and problems. 

    • Inclusive organizational arrangements that bring diverse perspectives and capabilities to the work of local innovation. 

    • Cultural norms that encourage appreciation of local strengths and assets, critical analysis of the status quo, and equity in the work and outcomes of local innovation.  

The products of improvement research are new knowledge, practices, and tools useful for advancing the development and well-being of students.  

Improvement research supports the incubation and use of locally developed innovations, the integration and use of externally developed innovations, and the analysis and use of external evaluation results as resources for improving students’ educational opportunities, experiences, and outcomes. 

What is the mission of the Improvement Scholars Network? 

The mission of the ISN is to weave improvement research into the fabric of public education in the United States and around the world, such that improvement research is: 

  • Institutionalized in higher education as a legitimate, valued approach to producing theoretical and practical knowledge. 
  • Integrated into routines and relationships in-and-among local classrooms, communities, schools, and systems. 
  • Incorporated into policy discourse and activity aimed at advancing educational access, quality, and equity, especially for historically marginalized children and youth.

Support for the ISN 

The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the foundation.

Meet the ISN Leadership Team 

The ISN hub team is headquartered at Vanderbilt University. The hub team coordinates the ISN and leads its improvement-focused field building efforts.

Hub Team
ISN Co-Directors

Jennifer Lin Russell

Professor of Policy & Organizations Vanderbilt

Peabody College of Education and Human Development 

Vanderbilt University

Donald J Peurach 

Professor, Educational Policy, Leadership, and Innovation 

Marsal Family School of Education 

University of Michigan 

Angela Lyle

Research Associate, Educational Policy, Leadership, and Innovation

Marsal Family School of Education

University of Michigan

Daniel Marks

Graduate Student Researcher

Peabody College of Education and Human Development 

Vanderbilt University

Collaborative Leadership Board

Marisa Cannata

Professor of the Practice of Education Policy and School Reform.

Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Vanderbilt University

Lora Cohen-Vogel

Frank A. Daniels Endowed Chair of Public Policy & Education

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Alan Daly 

Professor and Director Educational Leadership Doctoral Program 

Department of Education Studies 

University of California, San Diego 

Amanda Datnow 

Chancellor’s Associates Endowed Chair in Education Studies and Associate Dean of Social Sciences

University of California San Diego. 

David Eddy-Spicer 

Professor of Education 

University of Virginia

Bill Penuel 

Distinguished Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development 

Institute of Cognitive Science, School of Education, Crown Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder