New Book Aims to Bridge the Gap Between Research, Policy, and Practice to Support Change in America’s Schools
Scholars Lend Expertise to Raise Visibility, Accessibility of Research Evidence
A new book, exploring how educational research gets into the hands of policymakers and practitioners, uncovers issues around the accessibility and visibility of academic research and other types of evidence at all levels of the K-12 school system.
Educational policy experts Kara Finnigan, associate professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, and Alan Daly, associate professor at the University of California, San Diego, are co-editors of Using Research Evidence in Education: From the Schoolhouse Door to Capitol Hill (Springer, April 2014). The volume, featuring several case studies on research evidence, aims to bridge the gaps between research, policy, and practice and create a more equitable K-12 public school system.
Using Research Evidence in Education explores how and when research use occurs in educational decision making. Throughout the book, co-editors Finnigan and Daly and co-authors emphasize the importance of connecting research and practice in a more efficient way.
Despite various school reform efforts, educational inequities continue to remain, particularly among failing schools that are in danger of shutting down. With recent education movements over the last decade, like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Common Core standards, there has been a growing push for access to important research findings among policymakers and educational administrators and practitioners at all levels, including school, district, state, and federal. Schools designated as needing improvement under NCLB face the ongoing challenge of improving, and these schools, the editors explain, are in most need of research evidence for school improvement.
William T. Grant Foundation President Adam Gamoran, PhD, says Using Research Evidence in Education provides a timely response to a critical need.
“One might expect that research evidence would be a huge help to decision makers in education,” explains Gamoran. “After all, the quality of evidence has been improving, and the demands for accountability in education have never been greater. The accounts in this book show, however, that the story of evidence use is complex and varied, and we have far to go before evidence-based decisions and practices will become commonplace.”
Finnigan and Daly also point to this as being a transformative time in education. “There are many changes underway in terms of standards, assessments, and modalities through which education will be delivered,” the editors write in the opening chapter. “The importance of evidence in all its varied configurations will be even more important in the coming decades, and a better understanding of how it is defined, accessed, and used holds potential in addressing seemingly intractable problems we have faced in education for years.”
Through a series of new studies focusing on the classroom to the federal level, chapters of this book provide a clear understanding of the value and use of research evidence. Contributors to the book show how policymakers and practitioners at multiple levels currently access and use limited research findings in improving America’s public schools.
The book begins with chapters that focus on research evidence at the local level, followed by chapters on state and federal policies. It then concludes with a synthesis of the contributions of the book and emerging themes at all levels of the educational system. Emerging themes include: educational organizations have limited access to evidence; all levels of the educational system use evidence as a strategic and/or symbolic way to sway opinions or confirm ideas; trust and relationships within and across networks are important to evidence use; intermediary organizations are emerging in the production and interpretation of evidence; and a systemic approach to school failure—one that focuses on the failure of the entire system to support and improve schools, rather than individually blaming educators within these struggling schools.
“The distinguished writers in this volume also identify positive directions,” adds Gamoran. “For example, they turn away from the research producer/consumer dichotomy toward collaborative work in which the demand for and supply of research are better aligned and hence research evidence has greater value.”
Contributors to the book include more than two-dozen leading scholars from across the country, who push the thinking in the field through their research studies. Among the authors is Warner School alumna Jing Che, PhD, who co-wrote a chapter, “The Critical Role of Brokers in the Access and Use of Evidence at the School and District Level,” along with Finnigan and Daly.
The William T. Grant Foundation has provided funding to support the studies featured throughout Using Research Evidence in Education. In recognizing the divides that continue to exist between research, policy, and practice communities, the foundation supports studies that increase the understanding of how research is acquired, interpreted, and used to help improve the lives of young people.
Finnigan has conducted research and evaluation of K-12 educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal levels for more than two decades through her work at the Warner School as well as several prominent research organizations, including the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, SRI International, RPP International, and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. She has written extensively on the topics of low-performing schools and high-stakes accountability, district reform, principal leadership, and school choice, with many of her articles publishing in prominent academic and practitioner-oriented journals. Most recently, Finnigan served as associate editor of the American Educational Research Journal (AERJ). She holds a PhD in education policy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, MA in administration and policy analysis from Stanford University, and a BA in English from Dartmouth College.
About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education (www.warner.rochester.edu) offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.
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