The mission of the Urban Education Research Center (UERC) is to create reliable, usable knowledge about education in urban areas with the goal of promoting excellent schooling and improving the lives, opportunities, and communities of urban residents in the Greater Kansas City community and the nation.

The center accomplishes this mission through collaborative, data rich approaches including technical assistance and consultation and rigorous research using range methodological tools.

The UERC is a research arm of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Education (SOE). The Center works collaboratively within the SOE, across the university and in conjunction with local partners and communities. Collaborators and partners include education leaders, educators, researchers, community leaders, advocacy groups and service organizations throughout the Kansas City metro area.


Our vision is to serve the Greater Kansas City Community, and by so doing, to better understand urban challenges across the nation. The center intends to accomplish this vision through cutting-edge research that

  1. Identifies, analyzes, and diagnoses problems
  2. Determines which policies and programs work best for which groups and under what circumstances, and
  3. Uses this knowledge to create reliably excellent educational opportunities for urban residents.


We believe that a diversity of perspectives and involvement of diverse constituents are key to understanding and solving urban education issues that have national applicability. We believe that working collaboratively, academics, practitioners, community organizations, not-for-profit organizations, and the general public will facilitate our understanding to solve critical urban issues.


Eric Camburn

Eric Camburn
Sherman Family Foundation Endowed Chair
Professor, Division of Educational Leadership, Policy & Foundations

For three decades, Eric Camburn has conducted research on school improvement, school leadership, and inequalities in educational opportunity. His research has contributed to the field’s understanding of social inequalities in the secondary and postsecondary outcomes of urban students, and of factors that promote and impede the progress of urban students at key junctures.

Early research investigated factors associated with social inequalities in high school course failure and access to postsecondary education. These studies suggested that the inequitable outcomes were due in part to inequitable learning opportunities received by poor and minority students in urban schools. A second thread of his research examined factors that promote the improvement of literacy instruction in high poverty urban elementary schools.

Camburn and colleagues found that well-designed programs can promote the adoption of evidence-based literacy instruction practices at scale in historically disadvantaged settings, and that job-embedded learning opportunities and a strategic distribution of leadership can facilitate this adoption. Camburn has worked collaboratively with multiple urban districts to help inform improvement initiatives through research evidence. Between 2006 and 2010 Camburn worked closely with the Milwaukee Public Schools to conduct a district wide teacher survey that helped district leaders understand the quality of instruction and improvement initiatives across the district. Prior to coming to Kansas City, Camburn served as a founding Co-Director of the Madison Education Partnership, a partnership between Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Jacob Marszalek

Jacob Marszalek
Research Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

Jacob Marszalek received a doctorate in educational psychology with an emphasis in measurement and statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006. Marszalek has experience working on large external grants, such as an evaluation of implementation of the Reading Excellence Act for the Illinois State Board of Education, and a national evaluation of Career and Technical Education programs for the US Department of Education.

He was a co-PI on a grant sponsored by Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO, evaluating a home visitation program, the Team for Infants Endangered by Substance Abuse (TIES), and is currently the PI on a research grant sponsored by the University of Missouri Research Board to investigate psychophysiological markers of motivation during cognitive tasks. In addition, he has collaborated across multiple fields spanning health sciences, business, and education on peer-reviewed publications using analytical techniques, such as robust regression for teacher certification data, Cox regression for evaluating a collegiate women’s mentoring program, multilevel modeling in dentistry, structural equation modeling in psychology, and factor analysis in teacher education and psychology.

Marszalek worked for 12 years in the UMKC School of Education’s Division of Counseling and Educational Psychology before moving to the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Before becoming a Research Fellow, he served as Acting Director of the UERC, where he has continued to engage in networking and collaboration within the educational community of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Karen King

Karen King
Senior Grants Coordinator, UMKC School of Education

The majority of Karen’s professional experience has been in the higher education environment, with the most recent fifteen years devoted to grantsmanship. Her academic background is in business, having earned her undergraduate degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economic Development from the University of Kansas, and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Baker University. Among her responsibilities as Senior Grants Coordinator, Karen provides support for faculty by researching external funding sources, assisting with preparation and submission of grant proposals, managing pre- and post- award administration, and conducting grant-related professional development.


Teacher Instructional Time Use Study

The purpose of this study is to develop a survey method called the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) for use with teachers. The method has been used to measure “daily life experience” in the general population but to date, has not been used with teachers. The novel reporting method in which teachers report on the episodes of their day, has been shown to be more accurate than standard surveys. The DRM survey developed for this study will provide a fine-grained portrait of teachers’ work, how they feel about their work, and how their work context affects what they do and how they feel.

Evaluation of the Authentic Intellectual Work Initiative

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of the Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) initiative on student engagement, student achievement, and teaching practice. The initiative is being implemented in high schools in Iowa, Wisconsin and Georgia.  The program outlines three criteria for authentic intellectual work: construction of knowledge, disciplined inquiry, and value beyond school.

Work that is authentically connected to students’ lives and their cultures work is a way teachers can provide students with culturally relevant learning experiences. These criteria are elaborated in detailed standards and rubrics that provide teachers with a common language and concepts they use to discuss, analyze, critique, and improve their work and that of their students. The main vehicle for teacher learning in the program is scoring meetings in which the standards and rubrics are used to analyze and score: teacher assignments and assessment tasks, student work, and teachers’ classroom instruction.

The study takes an in depth look at the impact of the program on student engagement and their engagement in authentic intellectual work in a sample of 44 Iowa high schools. The study also looks at the impact of the program on student achievement statewide using in depth longitudinal administrative records. Eric Camburn is conducting the study with Peter Steiner at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.