|The mission of CIRCE (formerly the Center for Instructional Research
and Curriculum Evaluation) is to conduct a program of research, instruction,
and service in education with special attention to curriculum, pedagogy,
and assessment. This is roughly the aim pursued since the creation
of CIRCE in 1964 by Tom Hastings, Lee Cronbach, and Jack Easley.
Currently CIRCE is a part of the Bureau of Educational Research of the
College of Education, University of Illinois.
Program evaluation has been CIRCE’s most common method of studying education. Created in an environment of curriculum reform and student testing, Center staff members have evaluated programs in most of the subject matters of secondary and elementary schools, some preschool and professional training, and social service activities closely related to schools. The disciplines supporting the evaluation designs have been not only the social sciences but the philosophy and the practical arts of schooling. The work generally has arisen in a call for information but evolved into widespread reflection upon institutional procedures and policies. Thus policy study and school assistance have been closely allied with the work. It is CIRCE’s mission to continue the study of evaluation processes, to provide instruction to students and guidance to practitioners, and to provide educational services.
The history of CIRCE covers work with many state and federal programs. Among the studies completed since 1975 are case studies of science education for NSF, a meta-evaluation of Follow-Through, the evaluation of the national 4H program, field study of discipline-based art education for the Getty Trust, case study of elementary school art for the National Endowment, and provision of various guides and documents for USDA, OECD, OEE, VISTA, EEC, NIE, OSERS, IOE, and OSPI. The CIRCE experience is largely told in terms of the people in CIRCE, people who have worked together closely and productively. Following the lead of Ernie House, the 1980’s were a decade of study of the philosophical, ethical, epistemological, and political aspects of educational evaluation. During his years in CIRCE, Jim Raths brought a focus on standards of quality, particularly as related to teacher education. Bob Linn contributed to studies of testing; Gordon Hoke to special programs within Illinois. Bob Stake continues his adaptation of qualitative research methods to program evaluation with recent attention to the effects of state mandated assessment programs.