Research Policy Center on Basic Skills

Mission Statement

The mission of the Center for Research and Policy on Basic Skills is to conduct multi-disciplinary research, demonstration projects and dissemination efforts to produce new and useful knowledge concerning families, communities and children's learning. The center assists with public policy formulation and program implementation in Tennessee and in the nation.

Goals and Objectives

  • To provide an environment and facilities to conduct significant studies; design public policy; and develop innovative, research-based programs concerning families, communities and children's learning.
  • To disseminate research that has an impact on policies, practices and programs that affect families, community support systems and children's learning.
  • To demonstrate research capability at a state, regional and national level which denotes the center as accomplished among peer institutions and in the broader research community.


The Center for Research and Policy on Basic Skills (RPC) was established at Tennessee State University (TSU) in 1984. TSU is a major urban and comprehensive university. This unique combination of characteristics enhances the university's instructional, research and public service mission to which the center makes important contributions.

Research Agenda

Center research pays particular attention to school, community and business practices which promote the physical, educational and psychological well-being of children and families. Some examples of research topics are:
  • Economic, school and welfare reform.
  • Family strengths and coping capacities.
  • Comprehensive family support programs and school-linked family resource centers.
  • Case management and family services.
  • Early childhood intervention programs and preschool to school transition.
  • Longitudinal study on class/school size effects on academic achievement/graduation .
  • Systemic change initiatives in science, mathematics and technology education.
  • School-to-work transition.

Bureau of Evaluation and Research Services

The RPC's Bureau of Evaluation and Research Services houses demonstration projects, training programs and evaluation contracts conducted in collaboration with schools and other public agencies. The bureau also provides instructional programs, research laboratories and a nationally accredited early childhood education center for infants and preschool children.

Several externally funded research and demonstration projects are currently being administered by RPC. The Tennessee Comprehensive Area Resource Efforts Program, one suchproject, is a national model for comprehensive family support, welfare reform and early intervention.

has demonstrated that school reform initiatives result in improved academic achievement. Dr. Barbara Nye, center director, is shown here with TSU graduate student, Mr. Richard Cosby.

Outreach Activities

The center supports several project and program advisory groups with statewide membership. These currently include the Tennessee Multiage (Nongraded) Research Network, the Tennessee Hands-On Science and Technology Consortium, the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance, the Tennessee CAREs Policy and Business Councils, and the State Resource Committee on Welfare Reform. The center also houses the Families for Learning Technical Assistance and Evaluation Institute which conducts early and adult literacy research.

Center personnel are active in publishing research; giving presentations at international, national and regional conferences; serving on state and national policy committees; and providing public service. RPC research scientists, faculty and project staff also conduct training and academic programs and are active in significant aspects of demonstration program implementation. They also provide technical assistance to collaborating schools and public agencies.

Looking to the Future

The center is preparing cutting edge research to improve Tennessee's community and economic development base. It will continue to collaborate on national and international studies to augment academic performance, increase learning opportunities for all students and improve the health of low-income populations. The center will also continue to involve the private sector in systemic change initiatives in schools and public programs.


Since 1984, the center has been an integral part of Tennessee State University's contributions at a state and national level. Its solid reputation is based on significant research, collaboration and public service. The volume of externally awarded projects and research studies reflects the recognition and respect the center has gained in the areas of research and policy development within the state and nation.

Center research has been used to establish goals and obtain General Assembly approval of funds for the state's Basic Education Program to adequately fund public schools; to support establishment of school-based family resource centers in Tennessee schools; to reduce K-3 class sizes statewide; and to establish a nationally recognized professional development and resource distribution center for improving science education, which currently serves 110,000 Tennessee students and provides in-service training for over 500 teachers annually. The center has also conducted research on health care, reducing welfare dependency and early intervention. Its comprehensive welfare reform project has already demonstrated that 70 percent of project participants acquire and maintain career path jobs and complete educational/job training programs. Also, the project children have entered school without requiring special education/remedial programs. Together, these efforts result in $3-$7 saved for each $1 spent. The center's research and demonstration of this project has been used to design the new federal Early Head Start Initiative for Infants and Toddlers.