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Yidan Prize Winner Announces New Education Research Center

IPR's Larry Hedges will launch center within IPR for education statistics, policy, and practice

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The largest education prize in the world, the Yidan Prize includes an award of approximately $3.9 million. Half of this amount is a cash prize, and the other half is designated as a project fund.

IPR's Larry Hedges was named a Yidan Prize winner in 2018 and co-hosted the Yidan Prize Conference at Northwestern University on May 2324. 

IPR education researcher and statistician Larry Hedges, a founding father of meta-analysis in education, laid plans for transforming education systems in the United States and globally, during his opening address at the Yidan Prize Conference Series: The Americas.

Winner of the 2018 Yidan Prize for Research and co-host of the conference, Hedges announced the creation of the Statistics for Evidence-Based Policy and Practice Center (STEPP Center) to help shepherd in a new era in education, one that bases policies and practices on scientific evidence instead of “tradition, politics, personal experience, and prejudices.”

Hedges said today's challenge to improving education is similar to what doctors faced in the 20th century when the average life expectancy in the 1890s for a white male was about 38 years. By 1990, life expectancy had doubled.

“We developed a scientific basis that is used throughout the world for medical care today,” Hedges said, speaking before an international collection of researchers, students, advocates, and policymakers gathered at the Kellogg Global Hub. “In medicine, that transformation occurred over the course of a century; the transformation in education can happen much more quickly if we take control of our own evolution.”

The two-day Yidan Prize conference, called “The Future of Evidence and Innovation in Education,” featured Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach For All and founder of Teach For America, and a diverse array of experts from leading universities, research firms and nonprofit organizations. It also included the 2018 Yidan Prize Laureates, Hedges and Anant Agarwal, winner of the 2018 Yidan Prize for Education Development and founder and CEO of edX.

Several IPR fellows and School of Education and Social Policy faculty participated in panels, including IPR labor economist Kirabo Jackson, who has analyzed several important aspects of education policy, such as the importance of public school funding on student outcomes through adulthood.

Nichole Pinkard, associate professor and faculty director of the Office of Community Education Partnerships, moderated the panel, Evaluating Technological Innovation, which included Jim Flanagan of the International Society for Technology in Education, Herbert Ginsburg of Columbia University; and Krista Marks, of the startup Woot Math

The largest education prize in the world, the Yidan Prize includes an award of approximately $3.9 million. Half of this amount is a cash prize, and the other half is designated as a project fund. Hedges will utilize the Yidan Prize to help transform education through the STEPP Center within Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research. 

The STEPP Center will focus on developing and assessing methods for generating, synthesizing an

translating evidence to improve policy and practice. Its first priority will be creating a “science of translation” to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners. 

“How practitioners think and what they need from us as a community should have downstream implications for how we synthesize and generate evidence,” explained IPR statistician Elizabeth Tipton, who will co-direct the new center with Hedges.  

Northwestern President, Professor, and IPR economist Morton Schapiro, along with Yidan Founder Charles Chen Yidan, offered opening remarks at the conference.  

“So many people share the dream of making the world a better place through education, and the vision and commitment of the Yidan Prize is allowing us to take real action,” Schapiro said.

This is the first year Northwestern has hosted a gathering of the Yidan Prize Conference Series, which occurs annually following the presentation of the prize in Hong Kong. The conference travels to multiple continents to highlight the work of the laureates and explore new directions for education research and innovation. 

“The Yidan Prize is not only just an award but also an international platform,” Chen said. “The more I participate in facilitating innovative education, the more I feel the need to create a global platform that encourages the cutting-edge, cross-sector exchange of ideas and collaboration.”

To learn more about Yidan Prize and the Yidan Prize Conference Series, visit

Larry Hedges is Board of Trustees Professor of Statistics and Education and Social Policy. Kirabo Jackson is Abraham Harris Professor of Education and Social Policy. Elizabeth Tipton is associate professor of statistics. Morton Schapiro is Northwestern University president and professor. All are IPR fellows. 

This article was written by Erin Karter and originally published on Northwestern Now.

Published: July 1, 2019.