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### Remembering the Legacy of Renowned Education Scholar James McPartland

By Hub staff report

Published: February 6, 2024

James M. McPartland, a distinguished former director at [Johns Hopkins University] and a pivotal figure in the advancement of the groundbreaking 1966 study—commonly referred to as the Coleman Report—passed away on January 28 at the age of 84.

Image caption: James McPartland

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

A proficient statistician and education researcher, McPartland collaborated closely with James Coleman on the influential Coleman Report, which laid the foundation for a contemporary, evidence-based strategy to enhance education.

In 1965, a sudden request was made to James McPartland, then a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, by his mentor, sociologist James Coleman: “Can you move to Washington tomorrow?” Without hesitation, McPartland joined Coleman and five other scholars in embarking on a significant new research initiative mandated by Congress. Their mission was to conduct the nation’s inaugural substantial exploration of civil rights issues in education within a tight timeframe of a year and a half.

Reflecting on this transformative project, a retired JHU sociology professor remarked, “All of us recognized the potential significance of this endeavor from the outset. There was a palpable sense of purpose and dedication.” The release of the landmark Equality of Educational Opportunity Report (EEOR) in July 1966, fifty years ago, remains renowned as one of the most impactful education studies in American history. Contrary to prevailing beliefs, the report unveiled that a student’s background and family background held more weight in determining their success than the caliber of their school.

Dean, in a message to the School of Education community, praised McPartland’s contributions, stating, “Jim brought to his research on the sociology of education a formidable grasp of methodology and a fervor for tangible reform. He also served as a nurturing mentor to budding researchers, sharing captivating anecdotes about his involvement in the evolution of education research.”

In the same year as the report’s publication, 1966, Coleman and Edward L. McDill established the Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) at JHU, with McPartland and McDill assuming co-director roles.

Under McPartland’s guidance, CSOS evolved into one of the nation’s premier research centers supporting school improvement and student outcomes, housing a cadre of esteemed education scholars. The center, initially affiliated with JHU’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, transitioned to become part of the School of Education in 2009.

McPartland’s legacy at CSOS is characterized by innovative thinking and diligent efforts that secured a series of federally-funded grants over the years, shaping the direction of education research towards Research, Development, and Dissemination (RD&D). His commitment to leveraging robust studies to enhance school policies and practices endures as a defining aspect of CSOS.

Throughout his four-decade tenure at CSOS, McPartland conducted pivotal research on educational equity and comprehensive school reform, earning recognition as a fellow of the American Educational Research Association in 2009. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cornell University and a doctorate in sociology from Johns Hopkins.

Funeral services were conducted in Baltimore on Monday.