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Our Researchers

Curious. Innovative. Independent. The researchers at the Kingsbury Center have a common goal: to investigate strategies for advancing academic student growth and improving our schools. By partnering with diverse educational leaders, our team is helping to revolutionize education research with high quality data that is designed to inform, empower and make a difference.

Nate joined NWEA as a research specialist after working as senior research associate in the Office for Education Policy in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. He has also worked as a school-based therapist, and taught at a school for children and young adults with special needs. Nate holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of Arkansas, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Framingham State University and a B.S. in Psychology from South Dakota State University.

What do you feel is unique about NWEA and how did you come to work here?

The thing that attracted me most to NWEA was that this is an organization that is truly committed to partnering with educators to help all students learn. Prior to joining NWEA, I spent a lot of time working in schools helping educators and school leaders interpret and use their testing data, and really welcomed the opportunity to continue that work here at NWEA, to help teachers use testing data to make informed decisions about what is best for their students. Everyone here really works together to meet that common goal of improving education for students, and I feel fortunate and privileged to be able to be a part of this work.

What intrigues you most about the work you do?

With the increased emphasis on accountability and evaluation, I think it is important that school personnel use as much information and data as possible to help make informed decisions about what is best for their students. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to the Kingsbury Center – I want to help bridge that gap between policy and practice, between data-collection and decision-making, so that teachers and school leaders are able to best meet the needs of their students.

What are your three favorite things to do when you’re not working?

I am not ashamed to admit that one of my favorite things to do when not working is watching TV/movies – if there is a popular show on at the moment, chances are I’ve probably seen it or it’s in my queue. To balance out the mind-numbingness of TV, I really try to read as much as I can. And finally, when I can manage to pull myself away from the television or a book, I also try to run every once in a while – I’ve completed two half-marathons (in my younger years), and have aspirations (or delusions) of completing a full marathon in the not-so-distant future.

If you could research anything – time and money are no object! – what would it be?

I’d like to conduct a rigorous, mixed-methods analysis of the quality of food and beer at all of the Major League ballparks across the United States. There is currently a major void in this area of research, and I think the skills I have as a researcher can fill this void with precise and thought-provoking work. If anyone is interested in funding this endeavor, please let me know.

Robert Theaker joined the Kingsbury Center in 2011 as a senior research associate. He previously served as director of data analysis for Central Michigan University’s Center for Charter Schools, where he was in charge of establishing a data warehouse, school evaluation reporting, and analysis. Prior to joining Central Michigan University, he served as the senior manager of assessment and measurement for National Heritage Academies. In this role, he led one of the most innovative and sophisticated implementations of NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress in the United States. In Bob’s thirty-seven years of experience, he has been a statistics professor, teacher, and school administrator, and has presented numerous seminars in data-driven decision making. In addition to graduate coursework in statistics and reading, Robert holds an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University and a B.S. in Elementary Education from Central Michigan University.

What was the career path that brought you to NWEA? What do you feel is unique about NWEA?

My career path has been quite diverse. I did not come to educational research by the traditional Phd path. My career has combined college, business, and educational experience which took the form of statistical/research coursework and 37 years of experience as a teacher, school administrator, Director of Assessment, Quality Engineer, and Quality Manager.

It was while I was a Director of Assessment that I realized we needed a test that would measure student learning with high accuracy to determine student learning needs and curricular needs. It also needed to be robust enough to measure the teacher’s impact on the students learning for the accountability system I was required to put in place. The NWEA MAP was all that I hoped for and more.

Even after all these years, I tend to be idealistic, which is why I came to NWEA. It is an organization where my beliefs intersect that of the organization by using my accumulated education and experience to partner and help educators to teach “ALL” children.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

My children and grandchildren are my legacy.

What do you feel is the role of education in our society?

To prepare students to become critical thinkers who have acquired the background knowledge to understand the present in light of the past, while looking to the future.

What education policy issue are you passionate about?

College readiness, as it forces educators to begin with the end in mind. What would happen if we truly rewarded learning with more learning for all students?

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