The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) will soon be launching a new website that offers the most up-to-date assessment of the nation’s education programs based on the standards of evidence as defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Robert Slavin, a professor of educational psychology and director of the center, said the site will be free and open to policymakers, educators and other interested persons wanting to know what the research says about the effectiveness of a specific program.
“There will be a comprehensive listing of education programs sorted by category, and each program will be rated by the evidence-based standards in the new ESSA law.”
He expects the site to debut in February, starting with an initial focus on elementary and secondary reading and math. A grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation provided startup funds for the project.
Slavin saw the passage of ESSA in 2015 as “a potentially monumental achievement” for giving states the flexibility to use research in guiding programmatic and policy decisions. “The only way education is going to get better is when pre-K-12 schools use evidence-based programs that have shown to be effective in improving learning outcomes for students.”
CRRE has been a national leader in promoting greater use of proven programs for more than a decade. The center offers a Best Evidence Encyclopedia for those who want to learn more about the latest research on successful programs. Outgoing Secretary of Education John King praised Slavin for his leadership in promoting greater use of evidence-based practices at last fall’s Coleman at 50 Conference.
ESSA replaced the No Child Left behind Act (NCLB), which was the first federal education law to formally recognize the importance of research. When NCLB was enacted in 2002, it attempted to set a new standard for educational programs and practices to be “scientifically based.” The definition was so vague and broad, however, that few gave it serious consideration.
“Scientifically based research in No Child Left Behind was a major advance in its time,” said Slavin, “because it was the first time evidence was mentioned so prominently in the law. Yet educators soon learned just about anything could be justified as scientifically based research.”
The ESSA legislation addresses this concern by putting the emphasis on programs that have been rigorously evaluated and meet clearly defined “strong, moderate or promising” standards of evidence. The top two, strong and moderate, reflect high-quality research and have the best chance of insuring intended program goals will be met.
“ESSA provides an opportunity that may not come again for a long time to have educators make consequential decisions for children based on the research,” he said. “If schools adopt and implement better programs, it will not only benefit how children learn but will change and improve the educational system.”
The federal government offers the What Works Clearinghouse that reviews existing research on different programs, products, practices and policies in education.
The CRRE website is designed to be the go-to place for policy-makers and curriculum planners who want programmatic and related research information based on ESSA guidelines. Slavin said his goal is to present the material in a very accessible, easy-to-read format that the user can effortlessly navigate through to find just what they need.
“If we can encourage administrators to go to our website and seriously consider the impact of research when making program choices, that’s a big deal,” he said. “Students will benefit and so will developers of the programs.”
Key partners have been involved in developing the site, including the American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals and American Federation of Teachers.
“These organizations want to know what research is out there and how it can make a difference for their members,” he said. “I’m hoping they will be active in getting the word out to their memberships.”