The Midwest Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) has taken its dissemination of research findings to a new level—public television. In the past year, REL Midwest has produced three public television events (one each in Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) and plans to have more in the near future. Each event has been based on a different What Works Clearinghouse practice guide—Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade, Encouraging Girls in Math and Science, and Dropout Prevention. The goal of these events is to promote greater understanding of research-based strategies related to particular educational challenges, and the use of broadcast expands the potential size and breadth of the audience. For instance, REL Midwest events are usually aimed at a specific group of educators. By broadcasting their events using public television, REL Midwest is able to share this information with a wider group of educators as well as other important stakeholders like parents and people working in other disciplines.
To date, each event has included a panel of three discussants—a researcher, a representative from the state education agency, and a practitioner at the district or school level. The panelists discuss the research base and the potential application of these strategies at the state, district, and school levels. An in-studio audience has the opportunity to ask the panelists questions after the initial panel discussion.
Because public television stations do not have the equivalent of the Nielsen ratings, actual viewership data is not available. However, one station estimated that the event reached about 2 percent of their viewing audience, or approximately 800 viewers. REL Midwest expects that even more viewers will be reached by providing the videos online as archived programs.
The public television events are part of a larger REL Midwest dissemination effort entitled 'Making Connections: Research, Practice, Policy' that includes in-person and webinar meetings. Dean Gerdeman, Acting Director of REL Midwest, believes the public television events have been an important extension of their dissemination work. With three more events planned for 2013, Gerdeman says: "These programs are allowing REL Midwest to reach new audiences and challenging our team to think creatively about how to offer our Making Connections event series in a wider variety of formats. We plan to continue learning how to integrate interesting content for the viewing audience."
A mission of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) is to conduct independent evaluations of federal education programs administered by the Secretary of Education. This independence permits NCEE's evaluations to be credible and free of political consideration. However, NCEE also seeks to ensure that the evaluations are relevant and useful to the Department of Education (ED) and other education stakeholders. To accomplish this, NCEE works closely with the Department's program offices to identify research priorities, develop researchable questions, design evaluation studies, develop instrumentation, and recruit participants.
One example of this collaboration is NCEE's work with the Department's Implementation and Support Unit (ISU). The ISU supports state-level implementation of comprehensive reform programs through its technical assistance network. NCEE is conducting an implementation and quasi-experimental evaluation of one of these programs, Race to the Top (RTT). The evaluation will describe how RTT is implemented at the state level and examine the relationship of RTT reforms to student outcomes.
RTT's broad reform areas make it particularly challenging to collect useful information on implementation without overburdening respondents. In 2011, ISU helped NCEE refine the evaluation's interview and survey instruments by identifying questions that were unclear or lower priority based on their experiences assisting states with implementation. Thomas Wei, who oversees the evaluation for NCEE, reports that ISU's feedback helped ensure that the evaluation's data collection instruments systematically focused on implementation issues most important to ED and state education leaders.
More recently, NCEE worked with ISU to select topics of greatest immediate interest to the Department for short implementation briefs that are expected to be released in 2013. One brief will describe states' teacher evaluation systems and highlight challenges that states report in implementing these systems. This collaboration between NCEE and ISU has improved the content of the evaluation without compromising IES' methodological rigor and objectivity.
Another example of NCEE's commitment to ensuring that evaluations provide useful feedback to ED is the planned evaluation of the Comprehensive Centers. The centers provide technical assistance to states to help state education agencies build their capacity to implement state-level initiatives that support district- and school-level efforts to improve student outcomes. NCEE and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education worked together to design a formative evaluation to help the Comprehensive Centers refine their services during their 5-year grant period, which began in October 2012. NCEE also will conduct a summative evaluation of the Comprehensive Centers.
Pamela Tripp-Melby was recently named the Director of the National Library of Education (NLE) at the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. She will oversee the strategic direction of the library, which provides commercial electronic and print research collections and services to the Department of Education, and the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), an internet-based digital library of education research and information. As Director of the NLE, Pamela is committed to making the library's resources and those in ERIC form a more cohesive source for research support.
Before joining the Department, Pamela was Division Chief for the Information Services Division at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In that capacity, she managed the Joint Bank-Fund Library and the delivery of commercial electronic data and information to the World Bank and the IMF, as well as being responsible for the IMF's archives and records management program. Previous to her work at the IMF, Pamela managed special libraries at the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France. Pamela holds a M.S. in library science from Columbia.