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Summer 2021: Decision Making

Dear Knowledge Network members,  

Teachers make hundreds of critical decisions each school day. Educators decide which curriculum to adopt, how to support struggling learners, what to do about students with behavioral challenges, how to teach, and how and when to adjust lessons. The most effective choices are those made using the best available evidence. In recent years, the evidence-based practice movement has raised questions about what makes up a practical, evidence-based approach. 
The summer 2021 newsletter examines research that support best practices in effective decision-making.

How to Make Informed Decisions

Wing Institute Original Work
This newsletter contains five Wing Institute papers on decision-making. We want to thank Kendra Guinness for her contributions to this month's newsletter. Kendra provides the recently published paper titled, Best Available Evidence.   Recently published research on the topic of decision making
This issue contains summaries and access to the following resources: Congratulations to to the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year. All of us have been through one of the most trying period of the past 75 years. We wish educators, parents, and students a well deserved vacation. We hope this month's newsletter helps you through the coming dog days of summer.

Stay safe and thank you for your outstanding contributions to education,
The Wing Institute

Student Dashboard

The percent of students offered and enrolled in “In-person” schools 
(May 2021)
The Institute of Education Sciences now publishes a monthly school survey dashboard that provides insights into learning opportunities offered by schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It tracks the percent of 4th and 8th grade students that have been offered, and are enrolled in traditional “in-person” schools.  The survey is scheduled to collect data five times, once a month from February through June of 2021.  The following analysis examines critical aspects of the data for public school students between January and May 2021.

The data shows two trends in the access of “in-person” education for fourth and eighth grade students.  The first is that an increasing percentage of public school students are being offered this learning model, going from 42% in January to 59% in April.  It also shows an increasing percentage of students enrolled, from 33% to 47% over the same time period.  However, there is still a significant percentage of students who, even though they are offered in-person schooling, do not participate in this option.  As, at this age, this is obviously a parental decision it is worth further research to identify the reasons for lack of participation.
Another aspect of the data continues to show an even greater disparity in participation when enrollment is analyzed by student ethnicity.

While the percentage of students enrolled in “in-person” schools is increasing across ethnicities, the total percent of participation is significantly influenced by individual student ethnicity:  61% of White students are enrolled versus 31% of Black students, 30% of Hispanic students, and 15% of Asian students.  The gap between White students and Black students has grown by 25% between January and April, and that of White to Hispanic students by 23% during the same time.  Again, further research is needed to examine the causes of this enrollment difference but it suggests that many of the students most “at risk” are once again being disproportionally negatively impacted by the education system.  
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Monthly School Survey.

Wing Institute Original Papers

Understanding Research

"Understanding Research" is a resource to assist in more effectively interpreting the complicated and often confusing field of education research. Without regularly reading research, anyone might find it challenging to understand what a particular study offers policy makers, practitioners, or parents in guiding useful decision making. How does a person decide what works, what doesn’t work, when it’s working, and what alternative choices there are if it isn’t working? Read More

Citation: States, J., Detrich, R. & Keyworth, R.. (2010). Understanding Research. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.

Best Available Evidence

Best available evidence is one of the cornerstones of evidence-based decision making. The implication is that evidence falls along a continuum from very strong evidence at one end to very weak evidence at the other end. In a perfect world, decisions would always be based on very strong evidence, but, in reality, many situations occur in which the evidence is less than very rigorous. There are three considerations in making judgments about the best available evidence: (1) the scientific rigor of the studies being evaluated, (2) the amount of evidence relevant to the specific problem, and (3) the relevance of the evidence to the specific situation under consideration. Read More

Citation: Guinness, K., Detrich, R., & States, J. (2021). Best Available Evidence. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.

Standards of Proof

Science is not a fixed set of practices but rather a highly developed logic system designed to rule out alternative explanations for obtained outcomes. Read More

Citation: Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, R. (2010). Standards of Proof. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.

Why Science is Important

Science is essential in a systematic decision  making process designed to maximize the impact of education policies and interventions. Science has been mandated in education legislation, science achieves results, and science guards against flaws that are inherent in other approaches. Science is responsible for virtually all of modern day advances. One can only marvel at the advances that are directly attributable to science and technology. Over the course of the past two hundred years, the benefits derived from science include: reduced suffering, improved health, increased leisure time, and has expanded our knowledge of the universe. Read More

Citation: Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, R. (2010). Why Science is Important. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.

Research to Practice

A key outcome of evidence-based education is for scientifically proven interventions to be adopted and successfully implemented at the “practice” level. Too many scientifically validated policies and practices fail to meet their stated outcomes because they failed to gain widespread acceptance, failed to be effectively implemented at the “practice level”, or resulted in unintended consequences that undermined the outcomes. Effective interventions are rarely adopted simply because they are shown to work.

In order for research to translate into practice, interventions must be efficacious (have a foundation in rigorous scientific research) as well as effective (address the necessary social influence factors to ensure the desired outcomes). “Efficacious” refers to the “what” of education interventions. Interventions must be based on scientific research that is rigorous, transparent and current.

Effective refers to the “how” of education interventions. Equal emphasis must be placed on how to successfully disseminate and implement research proven interventions in “practice” settings. The scientific approach must be equally applied to the study of implementation and social influence, as effectiveness of an intervention. Read More

Citation: Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, R. (2010). Research to Practice. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.

Evidence-Based Decision Making

What are common criticisms expressed against data-based decision-making?

Research on data-based decision making has proliferated around the world, fueled by policy recommendations and the diverse data that are now available to educators to inform their practice. Yet, many misconceptions and concerns have been raised by researchers and practitioners. This paper surveys and synthesizes the landscape of the data-based decision-making literature to address the identified misconceptions and then to serve as a stimulus to changes in policy and practice as well as a roadmap for a research agenda. Read more

How does money fit into the equation when making evidence-based decision making?

A Cost Analysis of the Innovation–Decision Process of an Evidence-Based Practice in Schools. The translation of evidence-based practices (EBPs) to improve students’ social, emotional, behavioral, and academic out- comes into authentic school settings has posed significant challenges for both researchers and practitioners. Among the many barriers to the adoption and use of EBPs are their associated costs. This study presents a framework for integrating the diffusion of innovation theory into an economic evaluation utilizing a societal perspective, which affords the capturing of costs of all phases from adoption through implementation of EBPs for all stakeholders. Read more

What decision-making frameworks can enhance evidence-based decisions?

Evidence-based decision-making: A team effort toward achieving goals. Implementing evidence-based practices requires not only knowledge of various interventions and practices but also professional judgment in selecting and applying an intervention that best meets the needs of the child and the family. Previous work on decision-making in evidence-based practices has focused on describing evidence-based practices, how the identification of evidence-based practices has affected the field of education (and, specifically, special education), and strategies for implementing evidence-based practices. The next logical step is in addressing how practitioners might make decisions about how to select evidence-based practices that match strengths and needs as well as contexts for children. Read More

How can educators and policy-makers overcome challenges to building an evidence-based education culture?

Evidence-Based Policies in Education: Initiatives and Challenges in Europe. This article examines the state of progress of evidence-based educational policies in Europe and identifies organizations for the generation and dissemination of evidence. Further, it discusses some of the most relevant challenges facing the development of evidence-informed education policies in Europe. Read More

What can educators do to promote evidence-based education reform?

How could evidence-based reform advance education? This article presents a definition and rationale for evidence-based reform in education, and a discussion of the current state of evidence-based research, focusing on China, the U.S., and the UK. The article suggests ways in which Chinese, U.S., UK, and other scholars might improve the worldwide quality of evidence-based reform in education. One indicator of this partnership is an agreement among the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Nanjing Normal University, and Johns Hopkins University to work together on Chinese and English versions of the website Best Evidence in Brief and a collaboration between Johns Hopkins and the ECNU Review of Education at East China Normal University.

The Wing Institute would like to acknowledge the contributions of Robert Slavin to the field of education. Our condolences go out to Robert Salvin’s family on the loss of one of America’s premier proponents of evidence-based education, who recently passed away on April 24, 2021.  Robert Slavin was an education researcher who sought to translate the science of learning into effective teaching practices. Dr. Slavin was a distinguished professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, where he directed the Center for Research and Reform in EducationRead more

Should financing be a component of evidence-based decision making?

Cost-Effectiveness Analysis: A Component of Evidence-Based Education. Including cost-effectiveness data in the evaluation of programs is the next step in the evolution of evidence-based practice. Evidence-based practice is grounded in three complementary elements: best available evidence, professional judgment, and client values and context. To fully apply the cost-effectiveness data, school administrators will have to rely on all three of these elements. The function of cost-effectiveness data is to guide decisions about how limited financial resources should be spent to produce the best educational outcomes. To do so, it is necessary for decision makers to choose between options with known cost-effectiveness ratios while working within the budget constraints. In this article, I discuss some of the considerations that have to be addressed in the decision-making process and implications of including cost-effectiveness analyses in data-based decision making. Read More

Wing Institute Education Summit

April 27, 2006

Responsibilities of Researchers and Practitioners for Translating Research to Practice. This paper was written for the Wing Institute’s first education summit titled, The Evidence-based Education Roadmap: Bridging the Research to Practice Gap. The 2006 summit addressed issues relevant to educators in adopting and implementing evidence-based practices. A special thank you to Mark Shriver and the Journal of Evidence-based Practices in Education for compiling this journal issue based on the proceeding from the summit.

Shriver, M. D. (2007). Roles and responsibilities of researchers and practitioners for translating research to practice. Journal of Evidence-Based Practices for Schools8(1), 4-25.
Abstract: An important, if not defining, characteristic of evidence-based education is that of translating research to practice. Translating research to practice requires purposeful action on the part of researchers and practitioners alike. Researchers and practitioners involved in translating research to practice include teachers and other frontline educators, administrators, trainers, and policymakers. This article reviews and discusses the roles and responsibilities of practitioners and researchers who are translating research to practice as part of a culture of evidence-based education. Analyses of professional roles and responsibilities of researchers and practitioners are presented. In addition, some of the difficulties with changing roles and responsibilities are highlighted. Suggested are initial steps that researchers and practitioners may take in establishing an evidence-based education culture that facilitates translating research to practice. Read More

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