By Ruth Curran Neild, Delegated Director, IES
Stick with it, teachers tell their students. Don’t give up when the going gets tough. Important work is often difficult. Keep at it.
More than a decade ago, it took this kind of dogged determination to launch an entity that would review education research against rigorous standards—the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). There were some skeptics, but also many supporters. And year after year, the WWC persisted, building out new topic areas, adding systematic reviews and practice guides, and identifying more interventions with positive effects on student outcomes.
Over time, WWC standards began to influence the field, with researchers designing studies that would meet its rigorous expectations. At the same time, researchers provided input that helped us improve WWC and its standards. Now, there are about 1,000 effectiveness studies available that meet our high bar for research design.
By 2014, there was so much content in the WWC and so many people using the WWC website that it was time to retool our online presence and make our resources easier to find.
So IES staff and WWC contractors undertook an extensive project to create a more flexible database and intuitive search engine that meets a variety of user needs. A new relational database was built from the ground up, using study review data previously kept in thousands of different spreadsheets. Focus groups and user testing allowed us to identify the most important functionalities and best design features.
After more than two years of work, we launched the new WWC website today (Sept. 13), with a much-improved Find What Works feature that makes it easier to identify interventions, programs, and policies have improved student outcomes. (The video below can help you learn how to navigate the new site). The new WWC site has something for all types of users:
Do you want just top-level information about a program’s effects? We can give you that.
Do you want to dig into the details of a particular study, including outcome domains, population, geographic context, and implementation? We can give you that, too.
Do you want a quick assessment of whether a study was conducted with students like yours? Find What Works can do that.
Do you want an easy way to compare the research on interventions? Yes, absolutely – that’s a new feature.
Do you want to see a list of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that meet WWC standards and found at least one statistically significant positive effect? No problem.
This is a proud day indeed for the What Works Clearinghouse, but there’s more to come. We are always working on new resources for our users. In the next few months, look for a new practice guide on teaching writing in grades 6-12, as well as online WWC reviewer training, which we hope will help to meet the high demand for this credential. And we are continuing to expand our topic areas, including reviews of studies of postsecondary education programs to identify those that are showing promise for improving student outcomes.
A lot of hard work and persistence went into this project from many people, including IES staff and the teams from Mathematica Policy Research and Sanametrix that worked on the site. I want to say “thank you” to them all. I also want to thank the many people who have been a part of the WWC over the years; including IES team members, study reviewers, and contractors. They have helped get us to this point today.
Most of all, I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of educators, researchers, and decision makers who visit and use the WWC each year. We are glad that the What Works Clearinghouse has been a part of your work and hope it will continue to be a go-to resource for many years to come.