• By Kevin Mount
  • Posted on Friday 14th December, 2007

We can transform education for the benefit of all

The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) represents an extraordinary opportunity to move forward evidence-based reform in education. With significant pump-priming funding from The Bowland Charitable Trust, a supportive Strategy Board led by former UK Secretary of State for Education Estelle Morris, talented colleagues, and collaborations with like-minded colleagues throughout Britain and the world at large, the York Institute has exceptional capabilities to make a meaningful difference in education. We expect to work on many tracks. We will carry out systematic reviews of research on educational programs and practices, and communicate the results clearly to many audiences. We will develop new programs to improve student outcomes, and will evaluate them in rigorous, mostly cluster randomized experiments. We will also evaluate programs developed by others, in equally rigorous experiments. More generally, we hope to influence educational policies to support the use of proven programs and to invest in the research and development needed to provide educators with powerful and proven tools to serve all children, especially those most at risk.The IEE provides a unique opportunity to remove many of the excuses that have held back evidence-based reform. If we are successful, the simple idea that educators should know and use evidence as a basis for their practices will become commonplace in policy and in schools. But we are not naive about the difficulties. Many in our own profession are deeply skeptical, not just about individual studies (which is healthy) but about the entire idea that evidence should inform practice. Governments in the UK, the US and elsewhere do not fund educational research adequately. In the US, for example, funding for research in medicine is about 500 times that for research in education. Policy makers, educational leaders, and teachers value research when it supports their existing practices and beliefs, but often reject it if it does not, regardless of its quality.Yet all of these problems have also existed in other fields, such as medicine and agriculture, which – after much resistance – have come to embrace evidence-based practice. When they do so, progress becomes the norm, as researchers and developers strive to create programs and tools that are more effective than the best that currently exist. Ultimately, evidence-based reform will prevail in education because educators care about children, and when they see better ways to serve children, they will want to use them. My colleagues and I are confident that, working with others throughout the world, we can provide an adequate base of information and best practice to convince even the most skeptical educators that evidence is an essential tool which talented professionals can use to transform education for the benefit of all.

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