School & District Management Letter to the Editor

The Role of Public Scholarship

February 12, 2019 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

I read the recent Commentary collection on public scholarship (“Want to Be a Public Scholar? Here’s What You Need to Know,” January 16, 2019). After 50 years in public education, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that education-research findings have little effect on the development of education policy. There are several reasons why this is the case.

Most of the research in education is not very compelling. Too many empirical studies are never replicated, and there are numerous insignificant findings on many educational topics. Studies are also often based upon small populations, and few would be impactful for policy considerations.

I’ve also come to realize that policymakers consider more than just research findings when arriving at educational policy. Research often loses out to cost or lack of community acceptance to change. As Cornelia Dean noted in her insightful 2017 book Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin, the public arena is ruled by emotions, ideology, and sometimes prejudice.

Policymakers also assess new information based on their prior perceptions and tend to value information dismissing facts that don’t fit their views. Still, I’d like to believe that increased engagement between researchers and key policymakers can make a difference in students’ lives.

However, researchers who travel this path need to be aware of potential drawbacks. Overhyped research findings based upon a weak foundation of studies can easily slip into advocacy, thus public release of findings before they are carefully vetted can be problematic. Some professional journals have long refused to publish any research article whose contents have substantially been made public before publication in the journal, which may be a serious disincentive for researchers.

William J. Price

Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership

Eastern Michigan University

Ypsilanti, Mich.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2019 edition of Education Week as The Role of Public Scholarship


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Professional Development Webinar
Leveraging Student Voice for Teacher Retention & Development
Join our webinar on using student feedback to improve teacher performance, retention & student achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How Central Offices Can Lay the Groundwork for Tutoring in Schools
From data mining to making master schedules, principals need central offices’ help to implement tutoring.
5 min read
Teamwork and leadership.
DigitalVision Vectors
School & District Management What the Research Says Most Schools Have Early-Warning Systems. Some Kids Are Still Getting Lost
A study finds that one such system prevented absenteeism among some students but not others.
4 min read
Illustration of a warning symbol.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Restorative Practices Don’t Just Belong in the Classroom. Leaders Should Use Them, Too
Respectful conflict resolution, starting meetings with a talking circle, and other ways this administrator is walking the walk.
Sonja Gedde
5 min read
A team of colleagues comes to a resolution in a conceptual illustration about building bridges
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management Electric Buses Hit Some Road Bumps, But They're Still Catching On
The number of electric school buses is rising—and there’s no shortage of growing pains involving funding, legal mandates, and operations.
8 min read
Yellow electric school bus plugged in at a charging station.
Thomas W Farlow/iStock/Getty