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Report: 3 Ways State Education Agencies Can Strengthen Research

The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) has released a new report, "State Education Agencies' Acquisition and Use of Research Knowledge in School Improvement Strategies," that examines how state education agencies (SEAs) look for, choose, and integrate research into strategies for improving low-performing schools.

After studying three SEAs with differing size, structure, and school improvement strategies, the authors concluded that "SEAs can strengthen research-based knowledge use by: 1) reaching out more often to external organizations, such as technical assistance centers, state and national professional membership organizations, and universities, which have ready access to research and research designed for use; 2) identifying, connecting and nurturing knowledge brokers in their agencies and outside organizations who work on common problems; and 3) fostering working groups composed of these brokers, key research sources, and practitioners to adapt generalized findings into more useable information," according to the report.

Other findings of the report include:

  • Staff more often looked for research that provided detailed guidance than individual studies;
  • While staff from across the organizations looked for resources, key individuals facilitated the process;
  • A small group that "sought the input of practitioners, professionals in other states, and external partners to contextualize research," according to a news release, interpreted the research;
  • Most searches that took place outside the SEAs was connected to the searcher's personal connections or prior work histories;
  • Most searches outside the SEAs "focused mostly on federal agencies, such as offices within the U.S. Department of Education and federally-funded assistance centers, as well as national professional membership associations, such as the Council of Chief State School Officers," according to information released by the consortium;
  • Third-party organizations were instrumental in making research-based knowledge (RBK) useful for SEA staff;
  • Staff said they understood research motivated practitioners and lent credibility to improvement efforts; and
  • Integrating research with policy often included SEA staff, practitioners, and individuals from third-party organizations.

"Policymakers should encourage and support SEA evaluations, particularly of the implementation of their own programs, to provide critical, systematic feedback to agency staff. Studies are also needed of how SEAs access and use research in other education policy areas, of the quality of research acquired by SEA staff and underlying research designed for use products, and on policy implementation and effects in understudied areas of education policy."The methodology of the report included "a social network analysis of each SEA through 62 in-depth interviews with high-level SEA staff and leaders of external organizations, as well as over 300 surveys to all SEA staff involved in school improvement projects," according to the report.

Visit cpre.org to see the full report.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is the multimedia editor for Campus Technology and THE Journal. He can be reached at jbolkan@1105media.com.

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