School & District Management

Online Clearinghouse Sizes Up What Works in Array of Programs

By Debra Viadero — October 03, 2006 2 min read
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The U.S. Department of Education isn’t the only organization in Washington with a “what works” Web site.

Over the past five years, Child Trends, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group, has been quietly compiling its own electronic clearinghouse on effective programs and practices aimed at improving the well-being of children and families.

Kristin A. Moore, a senior scholar at the group, said the online study archive grew out of research Child Trends was doing to inform grantmaking decisions for three foundations.

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The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, both based in New York City, and the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation wanted to know whether there were interventions in specific areas, such as after-school programs or school readiness, that had research evidence attesting to their effectiveness.

With permission from the funders, Child Trends decided to put the results of its searches online for anyone to use.

Like the Education Department’s What Works Clearinghouse, the analysts at the 50-person research organization took their cue from biomedical research in relying on evidence from rigorous experiments or quasi-experiments to determine whether programs “work” or not.

Evidence Scarce

And, like the federal researchers, they, too, found out that, in many areas, such studies were few and far between. (“‘One Stop’ Research Shop Seen as Slow to Yield Views That Educators Can Use,” Sept. 27, 2006.)

“But, given that most programs on the ground have not been experimentally evaluated, we also decided not to ignore them,” Ms. Moore said.

So programs with positive results that come from studies falling short of that high methodological bar are placed under a category on the Web site called “best bets.”

Ms. Moore said that column also includes programs and strategies recommended through “provider wisdom.”

“There are a lot of people out there working very hard, and we want to include their input as well,” she said.

As a result, the site recommends a little more in the way of promising practices than the Education Department’s What Works Clearinghouse does.

So far, the offerings include links to the full texts of around 170 social-science experiments and reviews of the research supporting interventions across a wide range of areas, including a few in the education.

The Child Trends What Works clearinghouse can be found at www.childtrends.org.

The site lists several databases, but the “what works” results from several of them are merged under the heading LINKS, for Life-course Interventions to Nurture Kids Successfully.

A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 2006 edition of Education Week as Online Clearinghouse Sizes Up What Works in Array of Programs

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