“This is our moment,” proclaimed Michele McLaughlin, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Knowledge Alliance (KA), in two presentations June 25 and 28 to Education Northwest staff and board members. McLaughlin was referring to increasing recognition that policy and practice informed by evidence yield better outcomes.
McLaughlin pointed to a number of recent federal initiatives that underscore the importance of using research-based knowledge in making educational decisions. Examples include the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, which is steeped in evidence levels; “EDGAR” (Education Department General Administrative Regulations) criteria that emphasize evidence use in grantmaking; and the Institute of Education Sciences’ focus on knowledge utilization in its newly proposed research and development center.
KA—a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for greater use of research and data—counts Education Northwest among its members. McLaughlin explained that KA has been working to ensure that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act contains a strong definition of research and that “the definition of scientifically valid research is aligned across different pieces of legislation.” She also said her organization is trying to drive greater effectiveness in federal education programs by requiring that money be set aside for evaluation, ensuring that grantees use evidence-based approaches when implementing programs, and using evidence-based research to improve practice. “If we can base policy and practice on evidence,” she stated, “I believe we can get better outcomes for kids.”
After meeting with Education Northwest staff in Portland, McLaughlin addressed the Education Northwest Board of Directors at its quarterly meeting in Seattle. Her goal, she said, was to update board members on the educational policy environment in the nation’s capital and let them know how KA is working on common interests.