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Moving Beyond Either-Or in Research

My colleague Mary Ann Zehr over at Learning the Language has a great analysis of the American Education Research Association's seventh annual Brown Lecture, given last night by Kenji Hakuta, education professor at Stanford University's College of Education. Hakuta's urged researchers to move beyond the "horse-race" of studies comparing bilingual versus English immersion to teach English-language learners.

The same could be said of many hot topics in education: charter versus district schools; merit pay for teachers versus professional development; inclusion versus self-contained interventions for students in special education, and so on and on. Yet the mixed bag of research in all these topics suggests researchers should consider more nuanced questions of where, when, and for which children different education reforms work best. Federal research policy, exemplified in the new Institute of Education Sciences priorities up for a vote on Monday, calls for context in effectiveness studies, as do the scale-up grants for the Education Department's Investing in Innovation grants.

It's possible that studies of how several, varied types of schools or interventions coexist and interact in an education system could help ease polarization of different intervention camps, and provide educators with a more cohesive picture of how to create and sustain school reform.

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