Education scholar John Papay to direct Brown’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform

News from Brown

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University]  — John Papay, a leading scholar on educational inequality and an associate professor of education at Brown University, has been appointed the next director of Brown’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Papay has served as interim director since January. In taking on the role for the longer term, he will continue to position the Annenberg Institute to serve as a hub of education scholarship that confronts some of the most pressing issues in teaching and learning, including opportunity gaps and learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. By creating a broader set of opportunities for engagement and learning for students, postdoctoral fellows, researchers, scholars and practitioners across campus and beyond, Papay plans to expand the institute's robust set of collaborative research projects, generating insights that can be directly applied to teaching practices and education policy.

Brown Dean of the Faculty Leah VanWey said Papay’s nearly two decades of scholarly experience, combined with his deep understanding of the Annenberg Institute and its mission to improve educational opportunities for children, made him an ideal fit for the role.

“John’s experience working within the University will enable the Annenberg Institute to build an intentional, interdisciplinary community that will strengthen the connections and interplay across leading scholars, grow the research enterprise at Brown, and produce a growing body of relevant, rigorous research that builds new knowledge of promising educational practices and of the conditions that enable students who have historically experienced marginalization to thrive,” VanWey said. “I look forward to working with him to identify ways to build on the institute’s record of success.”

Since joining the Brown faculty in 2012, Papay has focused on two main research areas: policies that affect teachers and their work, and how schools and policies perpetuate or ameliorate educational inequality. His recent work has examined how schools and professional learning opportunities can support teacher effectiveness and development, how schools can staff their classrooms more effectively and improve the diversity of the educator workforce, and how schools can improve longer-term outcomes for students living in poverty.

"I'm excited to be taking on this tremendous responsibility, following in the footsteps of transformative leaders who have helped shape the institute over the years," Papay said. "I’m eager to continue to grow Annenberg into a leading national education research institute and the hub for applied education research here at Brown as we work to connect more directly to the University. I’m also excited for our continued partnership and engagement with local schools and districts in Rhode Island."

Much of Papay’s research involves collaboration with policymakers and educators. He currently leads the Educational Opportunity in Massachusetts project, a longstanding partnership with the Massachusetts Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education. He is one of the founding senior researchers of the Research Partnership for Professional Learning, which seeks to identify the features of professional learning that improve students’ classroom experiences, well-being and academic growth, with a specific focus on students from historically marginalized groups. 

Together with colleagues at the Annenberg Institute, Papay also built a partnership between the institute, the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Providence Public School District. The partnership brings together local education leaders and researchers to improve student engagement and teacher learning, among other things, by combining educators’ expertise with data-driven research methods.

Papay is also a research affiliate with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A former high school history teacher, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Haverford College and master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.

Papay succeeds Susanna Loeb, who served as Annenberg Institute director from 2018 to 2022.