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Advancing Opportunity through Building and Using Evidence

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By: Jessica Ramakis, Director, Grants Policy Office, Office of Planning Evaluation and Policy Development, and Matthew Soldner, Commissioner, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences & Evaluation Officer, U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) strives to support the education community–including families, students, educators, State and local government agencies, Institutions of Higher Education, and local partners–in the work of continuous improvement of education. ED is a leader across government in using and building evidence about “what works” in education, and we appreciate the thoughtful work of our grantees, contractors, and other partners that provide support in advancing this work.

Today, we release an updated version of Non-Regulatory Guidance: Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments. This version of the Evidence Guidance is a revision to the Non-Regulatory Guidance first issued in 2016. We have heard from colleagues and partners that the prior version of the Evidence Guidance has been a useful resource. Several State Educational Agencies have linked to the Evidence Guidance on their own websites, and others have adapted or expanded it for their specific contexts. The Evidence Guidance has also been used by ED-funded technical assistance providers, including the Comprehensive Centers and Regional Educational Laboratories, who have infused it in their work with State and district partners as part of training activities, coaching sessions, and other outreach efforts.

This update retains the structure of the Evidence Guidance and clarifies that the cycle of continuous improvement and evidence definitions have broad applicability, including in K-12 education, career and technical education, postsecondary education, and special education. In addition, this version of the Evidence Guidance provides current information about the evidence provisions in ED’s regulations, known as the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR).

When considering about how to invest in education, we are focused on best serving students. This means grounding our work in practices that are supported by high-quality evidence. In some areas, what constitutes evidence-based practice is clear. In others, innovation— more evidence-building about what kinds of innovations might be effective—is needed. The Evidence Guidance acknowledges this by encouraging the use of the highest-quality evidence when it is available and, when less is known, highlighting the opportunity to try new research-informed ideas that have the potential to improve student outcomes and can help us learn more about what works. Finally, while the Evidence Guidance makes it clear that evidence of effectiveness should be at the fore of decisionmakers’ thinking, it also encourages us to consider what works for learners in their context, with the local community engaged to identify approaches that are most likely to be effective in meeting student needs and community goals.

We hope that you find this latest version of the Evidence Guidance to be helpful in your work. If you have questions about it or the use of evidence-based practice in educational improvement, please contact us at evidence@ed.gov.

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