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  • Author or Editor: Cynthia Coburn x
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Research-based evidence has an important role to play in many sectors in the US, including healthcare, mental health, child welfare, employment, environmental management and criminal justice. However, it is in education that many of the evidence debates are sharpest. In this chapter we focus on the use of evidence to shape public education in the US.

In many ways, we are at an inflection point in the use of evidence in US education. Since the early 2000s the ‘what works’ agenda (more often capitalised as What Works) has been the dominant framework for driving the use of research and data in education policy making. Unlike in most countries, the agenda has been characterised by a strikingly narrow focus on evidence of the impact of interventions (that is, did it work?), and has neglected a broader set of concerns including the need for interventions and wider system issues. In contrast, the evidence-based education agenda in the UK (see Chapters Seven and Thirteen) has focused on a wider range of issues, such as addressing cost and implementation concerns, as well as seeking to engage teachers and school leaders at all stages of research development, synthesis and use. In this chapter, we take stock of where we are in the what works agenda in the US, and provide some reflections on future developments if our goal is to create more research-informed education policy. Although the narrow agenda since the early 2000s has left an indelible footprint, other developments have risen to the fore in national conversations: developments in the learning sciences (a new subfield at the intersection of learning and cognition), alongside broader insights from the continuous improvement movement and from studies of research use.

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