IV. Making the Institute More Relevant to Policymakers and Practitioners
Over the last six months, the Director and Institute senior staff have been considering ways to ensure that the Institute's research better inform the difficult questions that education policy-makers and practitioners are facing. In order to be more responsive to these constituencies and improve its dissemination mechanisms, the Institute has undertaken the following efforts:
- Regional Educational Labs
In the re-competition for 10 Regional Educational Labs, the Institute has added a requirement that they be able to conduct fast response applied research and development projects for the policymakers and practitioners in their region.
- National Research and Development Centers
Similarly, the Institute has established cooperative agreements with its 10 research and development centers to enable quick turnaround studies to inform pressing policy concerns.
- Practice Guides
Practice Guides address practitioners' current needs for coherent guidance based on evidence. The guides will be designed to incorporate the best available evidence, allowing for evidence below the standards for scientifically-based research in NCLB and the Institute statute if such evidence is the best available. Practice Guides will clearly label the quality of evidence supporting particular recommendations. The Practice Guides will include both summary recommendations and a supporting narrative.
- Redesign of What Works Clearinghouse (WWC)
The WWC is currently one of the Institute's most significant dissemination mechanisms. However, it is still somewhat complex for practitioners to interpret the findings from the WWC. The redesign will provide practitioners with concise documents that summarize whether the evidence supporting particular programs and practices is positive, indeterminate, or negative.
The WWC is also changing a threshold for including strong designs for which sample size limitations have previously precluded inclusion in the WWC. This will increase the number of research studies in the database.
- Statewide longitudinal databases
The Institute is providing technical assistance to states that have received a grant to design, develop and implement statewide longitudinal data systems to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, disaggregate, and use individual student data.
The Institute is embarking on numerous collaborative activities with the Council of the Great City Schools, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The Institute will be establishing a task force on urban education, composed of superintendents and researchers. The goal is for researchers to start addressing the questions that are important to urban school districts and for districts to buy into the value of conducting rigorous research on their policy initiatives.
Board's Assessment of the Institute's Actions Taken to Assure the Relevance of Its Work
While much of the Institute's focus to date has been on assuring the rigor of the work it supports, the Board is very pleased that the Director and staff are conducting a number of activities to assure the relevance of the work for policy and practice. The items described above are an excellent start and the Board looks forward to additional examples and to the execution and assessment of the current plans.