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Report on Scientifically Based Research Supported by US Dept of Education



This is a major potential source of cognitive dissonance, because whatever
"scientific" standards are imposed on curriculum and instructional
decisions are within the context of unscientific decisions about standards
and accountability, rewards and sanctions, etc. But even if this initiative
is ultimately nonsensical, it has the potential to become another powerful
tool in the hands of our opponents.

Students of the political process will notice that a private group has
produced a report, and the U.S. Dept of Education has endorsed the report.
What comes next? Legislation? Department regs? Op Ed pieces?

You can learn about the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, read
biographies of its advisory board, and read a report on the forum hosted by
Secretary of Education Rod Paige at
http://www.excelgov.org/displayContent.asp?Keyword=prppcEvidence

The examples they provide of "highly effective" practices are things that
many people would support. They are also potentially very expensive. Given
the current set of decision-makers in Washington, will
"scientifically-based research" be used to promote federal funding for such
practices? Or will it become the basis for promoting a narrow agenda and
for blocking practices disliked by some Bush supporters?

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: FW: Report on Scientifically Based Research Supported by U.S.
Department of Education
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 12:21:12 -0500
From: "Kapinus, Barbara [NEA]" <BKapinus@NEA.ORG>

FYI. The report, available from the link below is 34 pages.


U.S. Department of Education
Office of Public Affairs, News Branch
400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202
FOR RELEASE
November 18, 2002
Contact: David Thomas
(202) 401-1576

REPORT ON SCIENTIFICALLY BASED RESEARCH SUPPORTED BY U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
EDUCATION

The U.S. Department of Education has come one step closer to
ensuring that teaching and learning in the nation's classrooms are based on
solid, empirical educational practices. Under a joint effort with the
department, the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy today issued a report
calling for a major, department-wide effort to fund studies that randomly
assign students to treatment and control groups, to establish what works in
educating American children.

The report was discussed today at a major policy forum in Washington
with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and senior officials from the
departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Justice; the
Office of Management and Budget; congressional education committees; and
major education advocacy groups.

The report notes that the U.S. has made little progress in raising
K-12 educational achievement over the past 30 years, according to the
National Assessment of Educational Progress, and proposes randomized
controlled trials as a key to improvement. The report also recommends that
the department provide strong incentives for the widespread use of
educational practices proven effective in such randomized controlled
trials.

"A central concept in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is that
federal funds should support programs and strategies that are backed by
scientifically based research," said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige.
"This report offers specific, valuable recommendations for implementing that
concept in an effective way, so as to spark cumulative advances in the
quality of American education."

Randomized trials have identified a few highly effective practices in areas
such as early reading instruction and school-based substance abuse
prevention. However, according to Bringing Evidence-Driven Progress To
Education: A Recommended Strategy for the Department of Education, these
instances of proven effectiveness are rare, because randomized trials are
uncommon in educational research. Meanwhile, the study designs that are
commonly used produce erroneous results in many cases, according to
evidence discussed in the report.

Unlike education, randomized trials in medicine, employment and
welfare policy, and other fields, are considered the "gold standard" for
evaluating the effectiveness of interventions. In medicine, they have
produced extraordinary advances in human health. For example randomized
trials in medicine helped to bring about a decrease in coronary heart
disease and stroke by more than 50 percent over the past half-century.

The report also notes that medicine also provides important examples
of how even the most careful non-randomized studies -- such as those
investigating Hormone Replacement Therapy -- can sometimes produce erroneous
conclusions and lead to practices that are ineffective or harmful.

Bringing Evidence-Driven Progress To Education: A Recommended
Strategy for the Department of Education is the product of a collaborative
initiative between the department and the coalition and is funded by the
William T. Grant Foundation. The report reflects extensive input from
department officials and staff, but its final conclusions and
recommendations are those of the coalition.

The coalition is a nonprofit organization, sponsored by the Council
for Excellence in Government. Its bipartisan board includes former
government officials David Kessler (former Food and Drug Administration
Commissioner), Robert Solow (Nobel laureate in economics), Jonathan Crane,
David Ellwood, Ron Haskins, Diane Ravitch, Laurie Robinson, and Isabel
Sawhill. The board also includes leading scholars, researchers, and other
individuals representing a broad range of policy areas.

A copy of the report has been posted on the coalition's web site at
http://www.excelgov.org/displayContent.asp?Keyword=prppcEvidence.


George Sheridan
Northside School

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