'What Works' Broadens Its Research Standards
Clearinghouse Moves Past 'Gold Standard'
For the first time since its inception, the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse is broadening its definition of “gold standard” research to include nonexperimental designs.
As part of the Institute of Education Sciences’ push to make research more relevant to educators, the clearinghouse has devised standards by which it can consider two new methods for rigorous research. In addition to the randomized, controlled trials now considered the gold standard, education researchers are now able to use regression-discontinuity , a method that uses a cutoff point rather than random assignment to form comparison groups, and single-case studies in certain situations. In clearinghouse reviews, studies that adhere to the new standards are now considered, along with randomized, controlled trials, to result in the “strongest evidence” to guide educators and policymakers.
The standards, which have been in development for more than three years, were posted on the clearinghouse website over the summer and are already being used to evaluate incoming research, according to Rebecca A. Maynard, the IES commissioner for the National Center for Education, Evaluation and Regional Assistance. However, the clearinghouse plans to tweak the standards further this fall and has asked researchers to weigh in on their usability. The clearinghouse plans to produce reports of research that meets the new quality standards, but Ms. Maynard said it may be several months before the first ones come out because there will be an extra layer of...
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