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Guide to Research on Race to Top Reforms in Works

Here's a trivia question for you: What's the most popular practice guide produced by the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse?

The answer is "Reducing Behavior Problems in Elementary School Classrooms." It's been downloaded 60,000 times since its 2008 publication.

And, if you like the practice guides, as many people seem to do, you'll probably also like some of the new products that the clearinghouse has on the drawing board right now. According to the clearinghouse's Scott Cody, who shared the plans April 8 with the National Board on Education Sciences, the clearinghouse has two new products coming up that are also aimed at bringing relevant research to policymakers and practitioners.

The more timely of the two is a set of new publications summarizing the research and examining the practical implications of the education reforms that are getting a heavy emphasis in the department's Race to the Top program—things like value-added modeling, linking educator-pay systems to student performance, and data-based decisionmaking. The Race to the Top has been criticized for favoring reforms, such as teacher merit pay, with a pretty shallow research base, so it will be interesting to see what these new publications have to say. (While we're on that subject, let me commend to you this commentary by University of Wisconsin researcher Douglas N. Harris. It essentially outlines what Secretary Arne Duncan should have said—but didn't—in response to that criticism.)

The second product in the planning stages is a series of briefs summarizing the clearinghouse's research on broader topics, such as the long-term effect of early-childhood interventions, block scheduling, and teacher compensation.

"It's what do we know about this broad topic, as opposed to how do you deal with this challenge, which is what the practice guides do," Cody said

Look for these products before year's end.

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