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What Works Clearinghouse Gets a Facelift, Joins Facebook

After months of structural and cosmetic changes, the What Works Clearinghouse is launching its new Web site starting this week, with new search tools, research topics—and a move to Facebook.

The clearinghouse has added a tool to allow visitors to find out if its researchers have reviewed specific studies by title, topic or author. It also now organizes its reports and research reviews based on 15 topic areas, including content subjects like literacy, math and science; school issues such as academic achievement, education technology, early childhood, career readiness and college access, school choice, school organization and governance, teacher incentives, teacher and leader effectiveness and student behavior; and special populations such as English-language learners and students with special needs.

Later this month, the WWC will also add a new topic and related reports on interventions for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. "People have been looking forward to that one," said Joy Lesnick, program coordinator for the clearinghouse.

The overhaul, which has been months in the making, is intended to combat the prevailing criticism that the Education Department's primary research database has been difficult to navigate and less relevant for teachers and principals in the field to use.

"For a while we've been building the content of the clearinghouse and now we're able to be more purposeful in how we're communicating this information to the public," Lesnick told me, adding the changes are part of a move "to be more of a daily part of what researchers and educators are focusing on."

In the next week or two, the clearinghouse also plans to take those search tools to Facebook, with a site page that will allow visitors to find, "like," share, and comment on any of the clearinghouse's reports and reviews. This will be one of the first steps into social media for the Institute of Education Sciences; while the federal Education Department has its own blog and Twitter feed, the department's research arm has been slow to follow suit, with only the ERIC database maintaining a social media presence.

"The advice we have received is this is becoming quite common among the practitioner community. The younger generation of practitioners in particular are actively using this tool," said Rebecca Maynard, the commissioner of IES's National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, which oversees the clearinghouse. "Most of us come from a researcher background, and my perception is [Facebook] is not used much among the research community, though maybe it's on the cusp." Maynard said there are no plans yet to develop a Twitter following (unlike the clearinghouse's satirists), but "we don't rule it out."

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