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The Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) was established as an educational research and development center at Johns Hopkins University in 1966. For more than 30 years, the Center has maintained a staff of full-time, highly productive sociologists, psychologists, social psychologists, and other scientists who conduct programmatic research to improve the education system, as well as full-time support staff engaged in developing curricula and providing technical assistance to help schools use the Center's research. The Center currently Includes the National Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk and the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships.

Research Purpose

The purpose of the Center for Social Organization of Schools has remained stable for over a quarter century — to study how changes in the social organization of schools can make them more effective for all students in promoting academic achievement, development of potential, and later-life career success. The emphasis on social organization is based on sound theory — that changes in the structure of an environment will produce changes in the attitudes, behaviors, and accomplishments of the people in that environment. Thus schools can be made more effective for all students through changes in the organization of the classroom, school, and district.

This emphasis drives the Center to address many major practical problems in education, including:

  • How to develop learning environments that minimize
    student apathy or disruption and maximize student
    commitment, satisfaction, and learning;
  • How to organize educational experiences that foster the
    learning of students with different interests and needs;
  • How to facilitate the successful transition from education to work;
  • How to structure and coordinate educational programs
    to provide fair access to educational and occupational

Research Methods

The research methods employed by the Center reflect the tasks to be accomplished and the expertise of the research personnel. Survey research is employed to discover and define relationships between school organizational practices and student outcomes — this type of research, carefully administered and interpreted, provides a knowledge base of how schools work and how they affect student learning and development. Experimental research is conducted in school settings — this type of research, conducted rigorously, provides solid evaluations of organizational practices and instructional processes that improve student learning and development. And Center technical assistance staff work hand-in-hand with schools to implement and evaluate the research-based practices and processes.

Research Funding

The Center was established in 1966 under a Congressional mandate that created a national network of 20 research centers to study the problems of education. Since that time, the Hopkins Center has remained true to its mission and received continuous federal funding as a Center from, first, the original Office of Education National Center for Educational Research and Development; then from the National Institute of Education, and now from the current Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

At the same time, the Center has solicited and received multiple grants from other sources to supplement, enhance, and extend its programmatic research. Thus Center research on school organization factors that promote the learning of mainstreamed students received support from the Office of Special Education; the National Science Foundation supported necessary curriculum development to accompany research on instructional processes and research on promoting minority student involvement in science; the National Diffusion Network supported the Center's dissemination of its research products into nationwide school use. In each of these cases, as with others, the purpose of this grant-seeking activity is to provide supplemental funding for research, development, and dissemination activities that are germane to the Center's mission.

Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR)

Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships

Guiding Principles

The Center has established guiding principles for conducting research that have served it well in carrying out its mission to help schools increase student learning and development.

Educational research must be a rigorous science. All correlational and experimental research must employ rigorous scientific methodology, so that the findings and conclusions of the research will be credible and applicable.

Educational research can be most effective if it deals with the aspects of schooling that are most amenable to being changed. In general, organizational factors in schools are much easier to change than are the attitudes, beliefs, and expectations of students, teachers, and other personnel. But changes in the school's social organization can then produce the desired changes in attitudes, beliefs, and expectations.

Research that attempts to produce knowledge about schools and to produce change in schools must take place in collaboration with the schools — not in an ivory tower atmosphere. Initial surveys and correlational studies can provide valuable beginning information about schools, but that information must then be developed into practical programs and processes that schools can use. The development and evaluation of these programs and processes must be conducted rigorously in full collaboration with school personnel.

Research findings and practical innovations, in order to make a difference in student learning and development, must be nationally disseminated through extensive collaboration with existing educational organizations and through direct contact with district and school personnel.


Center researchers have published over 500 reports in major social science journals and in the regular Center Report series distributed to key leaders in the fields of education and sociology. They have presented research findings each year at the American Educational Research Association, American Sociological Association, American Psychological Association and other professional meetings. They have authored numerous articles for professional and association magazines and published numerous books and book chapters about their work. Thus Center research has contributed greatly to building a scientific knowledge base in education.

Examples of these contributions to the knowledge base include studies and definitive findings concerning the uses of microcomputers in schools, the relationship of student time-on-task to academic achievement, the effects of parent involvement in their children's schoolwork, the effects of education on later-life employment, the effects of various classroom instructional processes on student learning and development, the effects of student participation in school decision making, the effects of school desegregation on minority achievement and later-life education and employment, and many other findings.

In many cases, the Center has elaborated on its research findings to produce practical organizational forms and processes for school improvement. The Center's Student Team Learning instructional processes are used in schools nationwide to improve student achievement and race relations. The Quality of School Life scale and the Effective School Battery provide schools with effective ways to measure their progress toward school improvement. The Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork (TIPS) processes provide interactive homework experiences for children and parents in grades K-8. The Center's Program Development Evaluation model provides schools with a full-scale organizational development process for adopting innovations successfully and building their own capacity for self-improvement. The Center's Success for All and Roots & Wings elementary school restructuring programs provide viable and effective models for improving the schooling of disadvantaged children.

Audiences for CSOS Research and Products

The activities of CSOS address the interests or needs of several specific audiences: (a) scientists in the sociology of education and the social psychology of the learning process; (b) education policy specialists, and (c) school practitioners. A balance is maintained in Center work among basic research, studies of specific problems in schools, and development of useful products for education.

Publications Office
Center for Social Organization of Schools
Johns Hopkins University
3003 North Charles Street, Suite 200
Baltimore, MD 21218
Tel. (410) 516-8808
Fax (410) 516-8890