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Photo by Ward Morrison
We are delighted to announce that Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst,
founding director, Institute of Education Sciences (IES)—the research arm of the U.S.
Department of Education—has been selected to receive the 2007 Peter H. Rossi Award for
Contributions to the Theory or Practice of Program Evaluation. (To read his acceptance remarks, please
In the words of one nominator, “Russ has transformed the nature and content of
educational research in ways that Peter [Rossi] would have applauded. . . . [I]t is widely
acknowledged that in 6+ years he has had a large and positive impact on what has been a
less than stellar research area. For reasons I describe in this letter, that impact is likely
to grow over time.”
During his career as a researcher, Whitehurst was the author or editor of five books and
published more than 100 scholarly papers on language and pre-reading development in children.
One of the techniques he developed, dialogic reading, is a widely used method of shared
picture book reading that has been shown in randomized trials to enhance children’s language
development. Throughout his academic career, his research focused on the development of
knowledge and programs that might have a direct influence on the lives of children and
Those goals continue in his role as the first director of IES. The Institute was
established within the U.S. Department of Education by the Education Sciences Reform Act
of 2002. IES conducts, supports, and disseminates research on education practices that
improve academic achievement, statistics on the condition of education in the United States,
and evaluations of the effectiveness of federal and other education programs.
The legislation establishing IES specified that Whitehurst, then serving as assistant
secretary for educational research and improvement within the U.S. Department of
Education, could be appointed by the President for a six year term as director,
with subsequent directors to be confirmed by the Senate. The President appointed
Whitehurst on November 21, 2002.
Whitehurst obtained a Ph.D. in experimental child psychology in 1970 from the University
of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Just prior to beginning federal service, he was leading
professor of psychology and pediatrics and chairman of the department of psychology at
the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He also served on the faculty of the
University of New South Wales in Australia and was Academic Vice President of the
Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit. He was editor-in-chief of two leading scientific
journals in his field.
As one of Whitehurst’s nominators concluded: “ NCLB has upped the stakes on using
research to improve student achievement, and policymakers and practitioners want sound
research guidance to inform their decisions. It is an important goal, and no one feels
the burden of this more than Russ. In six years he has tirelessly used his opportunity
as Director of IES to drive the entire education research field closer to that goal.
In doing so, Russ has helped us all make huge improvements in our work.”
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