School environment key to retaining teachers, promoting student achievement, study finds

New research identifies four organizational and administrative factors that can decrease teacher turnover and lift student test scores in math. 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —A school is more likely to retain effective teachers, a new study reports, if it is led by a principal who promotes professional development for teachers, is characterized by collaborative relationships among teachers, has a safe and orderly learning environment and sets high expectations for academic achievement among students, a new study reports.

The study, which focused on middle schools in New York City and used data from the Department of Education’s School Survey, broadens the context in which teacher effectiveness and student achievement is considered, its authors said.

“In recent years, researchers and policymakers have focused much of their attention on measuring and improving teacher effectiveness,” said Matthew A. Kraft, assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University and lead author. “However, teachers do not work in a vacuum; their school’s climate can either enhance or undermine their ability to succeed with students.”

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Brown initiative to help bridge humanitarian, academic efforts

With the Humanitarian Innovation Initiative at the University’s Watson Institute, Dr. Adam Levine and colleagues hope to improve the effectiveness and accountability of disaster preparedness, humanitarian response and post-emergency reconstruction through scholarship.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — From the horror of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia to the urban slums of Bangladesh, where annual springtime rains bring cholera and dehydration to thousands of children, Dr. Adam Levine has worked to foster collaboration between two well-meaning fields that are nevertheless often culturally at odds: relief and research. A medical veteran of those crises and others, Levine believes that academic rigor and perspective can make humanitarian work more effective and evidence based, and that aiding disaster relief can engage academia directly in saving many thousands of imperiled lives.

Now, through the Humanitarian Innovation Initiative (HI2) that Levine has founded at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, he hopes to greatly expand the opportunities for students to learn, researchers to study, and humanitarians to heal together.

“Getting these two very different cultures to work together is not going to happen naturally, but it can still happen with some dedicated work and advanced planning,” said Levine, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School and a physician at Rhode Island Hospital. “That’s a big part of what HI2 is really supposed to be about — bringing together academics from Brown University and elsewhere with humanitarian practitioners in the field to develop projects that can improve care in future emergencies.”

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Machine learning technique helps identify cancer cell types

The new technique could be useful in early testing of cancer drugs and in understanding drug resistance.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University researchers have developed a new image analysis technique to distinguish two key cancer cell types associated with tumor progression. The approach could help in pre-clinical screening of cancer drugs and shed light on a cellular metamorphosis that is associated with more malignant and drug-resistant cancers.

The epithelial-mesenchymal transition, or EMT, is a process by which more docile epithelial cells transform into more aggressive mesenchymal cells. Tumors with higher numbers of mesenchymal cells are often more malignant and more resistant to drug therapies. The new technique combines microscopic imaging with a machine learning algorithm to better identify and distinguish between the two cell types in laboratory samples.

“We know that there are these different cell types interacting within tumors and that therapeutics can target these cells differently,” said Susan Leggett, a doctoral student in Brown’s pathobiology graduate program and lead author of a paper describing the technique. “We’ve developed a model that can pick out these cell types automatically and in an unbiased way. We think this could help us better understand how these different cell types respond to drug treatment.”

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Brown’s J. Michael Kosterlitz wins Nobel Prize in Physics

News conference with the professor of physics will be live-streamed at 3:00 pm on Tuesday, October 4.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded Brown University Professor J. Michael Kosterlitz the Nobel Prize in Physics “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”

[A news conference with Professor Kosterlitz will be live-streamed at at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, October 4. Media who wish to attend in person or ask questions by telephone should email with KOSTERLITZ as the subject line.]

Kosterlitz is the Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown, where he joined the faculty in 1982. He shares one half of the Nobel prize with F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University, with the other half of the Nobel going to David J. Thouless of the University of Washington in Seattle.

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