To the Editor:
Robert E. Slavin calls in his Dec. 19, 2007, Commentary (“The What Works Clearinghouse: Time for a Fresh Start”) for a complete makeover of the federally sponsored What Works Clearinghouse, and cites numerous methodological problems with the clearinghouse’s analyses of educational research.
While laudable, Mr. Slavin’s essay misses the point. As long as the clearinghouse is the direct product of an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, it will be fundamentally flawed. While the department serves many important regulatory and policy functions, it is part of the executive branch of our government and thus a partisan political entity.
As a political entity, the Education Department and its various offices and divisions should not be in the business of evaluating educational research at all. Let’s get back to the “good old days,” when we vetted our own research and depended on scholars of merit (such as Mr. Slavin) to guide our efforts to evaluate best practices. A government-operated agency that evaluates research will never get it completely right.
David W. Peterson
A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2008 edition of Education Week as Can Government Ever Judge Research Well?