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STAT OF THE WEEK: Is 'What Works' Living Up to Its Name?

We're going to have to stop calling the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse the "nothing works" clearinghouse.

Set up in 2002 to vet research on educational programs and practices, the clearinghouse got that unfortunate nickname because so few of its early reviews turned up educational interventions that were any more effective than what educators were already doing.

This new statistic from Mathematica Policy Research Inc., the Princeton, N.J., company that operates the clearinghouse, suggests that times have changed: Of the 100-plus reports now posted on the clearinghouse Web site, 62 percent have at least one outcome that's positive.

If you go to the Web site to see for yourself, check out the nifty new search tools. They can spit out charts showing you how all the interventions in a particular topic area—say, reading or dropout prevention—stack up against one another by What Works standards. You can also customize the results by grade level, student population, or the learning outcome that interests you.

With all those new bells and whistles, the clearinghouse ought to come up with a slogan—perhaps "put what works to work for you"—to bury the "nothing works" moniker once and for all.

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