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Facilitating Evidence-Based Decisionmaking

Generating rigorous and relevant research is a necessary step to the transformation of education into an evidence-based field, but the Institute cannot stop there. The Institute must disseminate the knowledge it produces in ways that enable education policymakers and practitioners to use that information. In this arena, the Institute has also made substantial progress, particularly in the last 2 years, and this area should continue to receive sustained staff attention in the future. Our finding of substantial progress is based upon the quality and use of the systems and programs the Institute has created (e.g., What Works Clearinghouse [WWC], College Navigator) or revamped (e.g., Education Resources Information Center [ERIC]) to disseminate practical information to education leaders, practitioners, parents, and students. The WWC practice guide Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning has been downloaded nearly 30,000 times since its release last September; the Turning Around Chronically Low-Performing Schools practice guide has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times since its release in May 2008. The College Navigator was rated by Money Magazine as one of the best places to start a college search. Our finding was also supported by examination of the programs the Institute has established to help education leaders and decisionmakers obtain better data and become better consumers of education research, such as the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, the National Forum on Education Statistics, and the NCES Summer Data Conference.

Despite the Board’s view that the Institute has been instrumental in improving the rigor, relevance, and accessibility of federally funded educational research, much remains to be done to institutionalize the gains made and build on them. For this reason, the full report includes recommendations from the Board regarding the details of the Institute’s work and the reauthorization of the ESRA. However, the main message from our evaluation is that going forward, the Institute should maintain the direction that Congress articulated and that the Institute’s leadership and staff have executed so well.