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Stanford Opens Its Research Files


Q. It's so frustrating to get a handle on the pro's and con's of any given change that's proposed for our schools. As a school board member, I don't feel comfortable with voting for new programs that are backed up solely by gushing articles in popular magazines. I want facts! I want data! And I want scientifically-backed, solid research to aid my decision-making. Where can I get it, without falling into a black hole of time and expense?


Three cheers for Stanford University's school of education, where faculty members voted in June 2008 to make their research articles available to the public for free.


Check to see the articles, expected to be posted in early fall 2008.


The information is aimed at officials who make programming and spending decisions in school districts, state education departments, and law-making bodies such as state legislatures. But of course having open access to all that research is seen as a huge boon for everyday educators, school-board members, and parents who are trying to get a good grasp on the issues.


So often, there's a gap between the latest research findings and classroom practice, which is frustrating in this day of instant communications via the Internet. The culprit: financial concerns.


The vast majority of education journals which carry important research findings charge a subscription fee, often quite pricey, to educators and libraries. That makes access to a broad range of quality education research too expensive for most of those who want the information, and especially to school board members and parents who are 'way down on the totem pole and, most often, out of the loop on the latest education information.


Stanford's research website is expected to come online with an expected 100 articles per year added to the database, Stanford officials have said.


Part of the motivation for opening the research files to the public comes from a 2006 federal law, known as the Federal Research Public Access Act, which requires 11 federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, to make the results of studies that taxpayers fund more available and useful.


The move also is well-timed because more and more school leaders are operating under data-driven decision-making processes. They require scientifically-sound, empirically-based information on which to base changes in programming and spending.


Homework: An existing research database available for free is Education Policy Analysis Archives.


By Susan Darst Williams Ages & Stages 124 2008


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