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What does it look like when research is used to inform the development of a policy?

Lorraine McDonnell and M. Stephen Weatherford (2014) provide an informative case study of how different types of research and data informed the Common Core State Standards movement. The case provides insights into ways that partnerships can mobilize different policy entrepreneurs and different types of research evidence and data at different stages of the policy process, from problem definition to policy development to policy adoption. In this case:

  • Policy leaders and advocates used data and cross-national research to make a case for common standards across states.
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association then created a structure for developing and validating the standards, which included robust researcher involvement. Research expertise was complemented by the professional expertise of other key stakeholders including teachers and state education agency staff who would be responsible for implementing the standards.
  • Additional advocates then stepped in to make the case for State Boards of Education to adopt the standards, drawing less upon research than on communications and messaging strategies. For more, see: Evidence Use and the Common Core State Standards Movement: From Problem Definition to Policy Adoption.
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Using Research