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Empowering districts to use evidence: Building a state clearinghouse of evidence-based interventions

Empowering districts to use evidence

By Laura Checovich
April 23, 2019

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that school districts use evidence-based strategies to support school improvement and student learning. But not all educators have the time, skill, or confidence to dig into research reports or assess the level of evidence that supports a practice.

Ohio’s Empowered by Evidence Initiative is addressing this issue by giving educators the resources they need to find and use research evidence. The initiative’s centerpiece is the development of a state clearinghouse of evidence-based strategies that districts can use for school improvement. In addition, the clearinghouse includes a growing library of resources and tools to support evidence use.

Through the Midwest Alliance to Improve Knowledge Utilization (MAIKU), the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest is partnering with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to support these efforts. At ODE’s request, REL researchers Lyzz Davis, Ph.D., and David English provided coaching sessions for agency staff on understanding the ESSA tiers of evidence [248 KB PDF icon ]. In addition, REL Midwest developed a crosswalk tool that shows how the ESSA evidence tiers align with ratings from popular research clearinghouses, such as the What Works Clearinghouse. This support strengthened ODE’s capacity to help districts applying for Striving Readers grants identify evidence-based literacy practices.

Melissa Weber-Mayrer, Ph.D., an early literacy administrator at ODE, explained that “one benefit of having these definitions outlined and having the crosswalks to the clearinghouses is that both the district and the state know what to ask for as we’re engaging with research partners or working with vendors. Hopefully, it will give districts the information they need around what’s working or what the evidence is that something may work. Or if they’re developing a research project with someone, this will give them the ability to ask the right questions.”

ODE and REL Midwest are now building on these efforts. Plans include expanding the Ohio Evidence-Based Clearinghouse to add research reviews on a broad range of topics as well as resources on how to assess the strength of evidence in a research study. Districts and vendors also have approached ODE about including in the Clearinghouse research that has not yet been reviewed. Seeing an opportunity to promote knowledge generation in Ohio, ODE has asked REL Midwest to support this work.

In the coming months, REL Midwest will provide coaching to ODE staff on maintaining the Evidence-Based Clearinghouse and increasing district capacity to use evidence. Research has shown that for a clearinghouse to help bridge the gap between research and practice, schools and districts need guidance on how to select evidence-based interventions that fit their specific contexts and needs. REL Midwest’s coaching sessions with ODE will focus on creating these guidance documents and establishing review criteria for the inclusion of new and previously reviewed interventions in the Clearinghouse.

REL Midwest also plans to partner with ODE to produce a video highlighting the strategies that Ohio districts are using as they implement their Striving Readers grants. This video will explore the successes and challenges districts are facing throughout implementation of the grant. Check back for updates!

REL Midwest’s partnership with ODE has strengthened the agency’s capacity to help districts determine the level of evidence supporting practices and strengthened capacity of districts to identify their needs and select evidence-based strategies to address them. “We want to empower all our districts to be able to go out there and take advantage of the research that can support their work,” shared Heather Boughton, Ph.D., the director of the Office of Research, Evaluation and Advanced Analytics at ODE, “and so the resources that the REL developed for us are one step in that direction.”

Learn more

Through MAIKU, REL Midwest partners with policymakers and practitioners to help states, districts, and schools assess the level of evidence supporting practices and programs and implement those strategies that are based on strong evidence. The following resources also are available to help educators identify and use evidence-based interventions:

  • View MAIKU’s webinar to learn how researchers can share evidence with practitioners in useful and accessible ways.
  • Check out the What Works Clearinghouse website, which recently added the ESSA tiers of evidence on its Data From Individual Studies page, making it easier for policymakers and practitioners to find high-quality evidence on its site.
  • Submit an education research question to the Ask A REL reference desk service and browse the archived responses.
  • Stay tuned for an upcoming REL Midwest video on the ESSA tiers of evidence.

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Author Information

Laura Checovich Staff Picture

Laura Checovich

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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