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What Works Clearinghouse Creates Nuanced Search Tools

The What Works Clearinghouse, the Education Department's database for high-quality research, has often felt a little like Fort Knox to those coming to the website: You know the "gold-standard" stuff is in there somewhere, but it's pretty hard to get to it.

The Institute of Education Sciences is hoping to throw open the vault with a redesign of the site, including a new "find what works" tool, according to Rebecca Maynard, the commissioner of IES's National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. It allows a visitor to sort reports on a given topic from most to least effective interventions, or find those associated with individual grades from preschool to grade 12, or types of children, such as those with disabilities or limited English proficiency.

Moreover, the tool allows visitors to dig into the context of an intervention to find out if a given reading intervention was implemented using small groups or one-on-one, for example.

The ability to parse out research can be crucial, according to Jon Baron, the president of the Washington-based Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy and chairman of IES's advisory board. "Some types of outcomes are much more important that others: longer term and more final outcomes like reading comprehension or high school graduation. A large effect size on some of the smaller outcomes may not be as big a policy issue as a smaller effect size on one of these outcomes," he said.

The proof will be in whether and how people use the site. Try it out here and let me know you think.

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