Thomas Brock, a 1992 graduate of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in Social Welfare, actively strives towards alleviating the unique obstacles faced in the postsecondary realm of education in the United States.
Brock, nationally recognized for contributions in understanding and progressing community college reforms, was recently appointed as Commissioner of the National Center for Education Research (NCER). NCER programs produce rigorously evaluated research that may be utilized by education practitioners to effect change. He joined the staff at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and was welcomed with open arms.
“[Tom’s] breadth of research knowledge and experience in the postsecondary realm will serve IES well as we continue to advance and support top-notch research aimed at finding solutions to important education problems,” announced IES director, John Easton.
One of Brock’s most notable reasons for joining, however, was to “increase the policy relevance of NCER’s work, so that it may become more practical and useful to educational practitioners,” he said.
“[At the NCER], we support research for all grade levels and strive to bring scientific methods and research to policy makers,” noted Brock. "We seek to improve the teaching of basic skills, improve the effectiveness of federal financial aid programs and simplify financial aid procedures so that they may be utilized to a greater extent.”
Prior to the NCER, Brock served as director of the Young Adults and Postsecondary Education Division at MDRC, a leading public policy research organization in New York. While there, he focused on several initiatives to promote the educational reform of community colleges. To do so, he established Opening Doors, an evaluation of instructional reforms, enhanced student services and scholarship programs at community colleges.
As Brock explained, “Unfortunately, the percentage of students graduating from community colleges is the minority. Several contributing factors include financial obstacles, lack of fundamental skills (i.e. reading, writing and math), as well as the lack of support provided by colleges.”
Additionally, Brock was involved ina pair of national processes that helped colleges utilize datat more efficiently. Achieving the Dream and Completion by Design, also worked to improve the quality of their instruction, while providing greater support for students to ultimately increase graduation rates.
“What was notable about our work at the MDRC was that we used very rigorous research designs to evaluate educational improvements," Brock said. "We tried to use the best science to understand ways to make most significant differences.
“We investigated ways to create small learning communities to provide better support, in addition to looking at ways to enhance counseling and advising services.”
However, Brock observed that one of the
most important differences between his work at the MDRC and current position at
NCER was the scale.
"At the MDRC, we were leading studies ourselves," he said. "As a part of NCER, we are instead able to provide an agenda for future educational reform, identifying ways to train and support researchers."
Aside from his key roles in community college development, Brock has also been involved at the National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR), where he assumed positions such as senior research associate, management associate and special assistant for operations and development.