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Finding What Works in Education

January 30, 2002 3 min read

A number of efforts are now under way to better connect research and practice in education, either by providing more systematic, rigorous analyses of what is known from research or by using quality criteria to identify “what works.” Here is a sampling of such efforts.

  • Campbell Collaboration: This international effort, established in 2000, will provide systematic reviews of the effectiveness of educational and social policy and practice. The results will be published electronically. International review groups will use agreed-upon standards for “quality of evidence” to prepare and maintain the research syntheses. For information: ut.htm, or call (215) 848-5489.
  • Education Quality Institute: This nonprofit group, based in Washington, plans to judge education programs claiming to be research-based against a clear set of criteria, developed by a national panel of technical experts. The organization will publish a series of “consumer reports” on programs, beginning with whole-school-reform models and reading programs. It also plans to launch a peer-reviewed, Internet-based quarterly journal on educational effectiveness. For information:, or call (202) 639-8230.
  • Network of Comprehensive School Reform Researchers: The National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform, based at George Washington University in Washington, and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, a federally financed research center, have formed a network of about 75 researchers engaged in studies of large-scale, comprehensive efforts to improve schools. It will share findings with policymakers and practitioners and facilitate discussion and information sharing in the research community. For information:
  • Strategic Education Research Partnership: The partnership, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council in Washington, is working to design a national organization to conduct a large-scale research program. In 1999, the group released a report outlining a 15-year program of research and development. For information:
  • What Works Clearinghouse: The U.S. Department of Education was to announce plans last week to set up an organization to determine whether specific educational products have the research to back up effectiveness claims. The evaluation topics would be chosen by department officials and an advisory panel. Independent contractors would conduct the evaluations. More information will be available in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. Check ter.

“The term ‘scientifically based research’ (A) means research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs; and (B) includes research that:

— employs systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment;

— involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn;

— relies on measurements or observational methods that provide reliable and valid data across evaluators and observers, across multiple measurements and observations, and across studies by the same or different investigators;

— is evaluated using experimental or quasi-experimental designs in which individuals, entities, programs, or activities are assigned to different conditions and with appropriate controls to evaluate the effects of the condition of interest, with a preference for random-assignment experiments, or other designs to the extent that those designs contain within-condition or across-condition controls;

— ensures that experimental studies are presented in sufficient detail and clarity to allow for replication or, at a minimum, offer the opportunity to build systematically on their findings; and

— has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective, and scientific review.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 30, 2002 edition of Education Week as Finding What Works in Education


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