March 24, 2004 1 min read


A pair of education groups this month launched an online education research primer to help policymakers and other nonresearchers wrestle with concepts like “external validity” and “effect size” as they weigh research evidence.

Read “A Policymaker’s Primer on Education Research,” from the Education Commission of the States.

“We’re trying to bridge what has too long been a gulf between education research and education policy,” said Ted Sanders, the president of the Education Commission of the States, the Denver-based co-developer of the guide.

The state-policy organization teamed up on the project with Mid- continent Research for Education and Learning, a federally supported research laboratory based in Aurora, Colo.

The free guide uses pop-up definitions of technical terms and links to research examples to give a basic overview of educational research and methods.

Suppose a policymaker wanted to know how to evaluate two different studies on class size. One compares student achievement in small and large classes in one urban school district. The other does the same in 10 rural districts.

The user could refer to the guide to learn, for instance, how to discover whether the findings were in synch with other research on the topic, whether the findings could be trusted, and how they could be used to guide local policy.

The primer also includes an abbreviated Applied Quick Primer for people short on time, said Michael B. Allen, who directed the project for the ECS.

“It’s kind of a quick and dirty way for policymakers to look at the research right in front of them and get an understanding of whether the study meets some kind of research standard,” he said.

Though barely in operation a week, the primer has already drawn more than 3,000 visitors, according to ECS officials.

Mr. Allen expects the primer to continue to get heavy use—particularly since the federal No Child Left Behind Act has helped put “scientifically based research” into educators’ lexicons across the country.

Debra Viadero