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Research & Evaluation

Connecting Research & Practice

Since WestEd’s inception in 1966, our researchers have been conducting studies to address significant questions and issues related to teaching and learning and to human development in a range of social settings.

WestEd staff operate at the intersection of research, policy, and practice, bringing the methods of systematic inquiry to bear on real-world problems. Our Approach to Research & Evaluation framework illustrates our dual commitment to building the general knowledge base while supporting applied learning in local contexts.

Contact Us About Our Research Work

Understand and Apply Evidence Standards

Responding to calls for evidence-based decision-making, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we provide tools and resources to help states and districts understand and apply evidence standards.

In today’s high-stakes environment for education and social improvement, decision-makers are critically examining claims of effectiveness in order to select high-quality programs and practices with a greater likelihood of impact. WestEd provides tools and resources to help states and districts understand the quality of the evidence as they reach key decision points.

WestEd supports educators in interpreting and applying the multiple tiers of evidence that have been established by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In addition to providing a guide and other products that support understanding and application of these evidence standards to the selection of programs and practices, WestEd can offer a range of related learning opportunities for staff at state and local education agencies.

The ESSA evidence standards, though they constitute a prominent framework, are not the only type of evidence standards that educators need. Other standards of quality apply to curriculum implementation, educational environments, or assessments, for example. WestEd researchers apply standards of quality when answering questions such as: Does a curriculum include the research-based components that define quality? Is an assessment reliable and aligned with the outcomes it is intended to assess? WestEd also makes available rubrics and protocols that people can use to make their own judgments of quality.

Illustrative examples from our work

Supporting evidence-based decisions

WestEd’s Evidence-Based Improvement guide, with its set of six tools, is intended to help states strengthen their frameworks and supports aligned to ESSA evidence requirements. Because the role of the state is to provide guidelines and resources for districts, the guide includes parallel tools for states and for districts to examine how they currently build evidence into their improvement processes, review the evidence for specific interventions they are considering, and examine the appropriateness of those interventions for their local context. The guide can be used to support evidence-based decision-making, especially within a continuous improvement process.

WestEd also provides direct assistance to states and districts in using the guide, or their own tools, to build the use of evidence into their improvement processes. For example, REL West provides workshops for staff in the Arizona Department of Education and is assisting the department’s literacy team to build evidence use into the requirements for district literacy plans and to conduct training for districts.

WestEd also supports groups of states responding to ESSA funding and evidence requirements. REL West and the West Comprehensive Center are assisting several states to plan effective supports for school site leaders, using Title II or state funds. WestEd staff are also providing support to the state of Maryland, one of several states focused on school improvement supports that are selected based on evidence and evaluated over time.

Quality curriculum and assessments

WestEd, in collaboration with the California Department of Education, developed a protocol for early childhood educators and caregivers to guide their review and selection of curricula. The protocol includes specific criteria for effective curriculum, such as that the curriculum is comprehensive of children’s learning and development as described in the California Preschool Learning Foundations (PS Foundations), inclusive of children with disabilities, and responsive to the needs of young dual language learners. It assists early childhood educators and caregivers in reflecting on their program’s curriculum or selecting a new curriculum that meets the learning needs and diverse cultural and linguistic experiences of children in their program.

In New Mexico, the focus was on assessment, and WestEd researchers collected evidence regarding the validity, reliability, fairness, and feasibility of pre-kindergarten assessment tools for use as a kindergarten entry assessment. The validity study supported New Mexico’s decision to use these tools as the foundation for a kindergarten observation tool to serve as the state’s kindergarten entry assessment. To build the kindergarten observation tool, WestEd’s early childhood content experts revised existing observational rubrics and developed new rubrics that were determined to be essential for an assessment at kindergarten entry.

If you’d like more information on how we can help or partner with you, contact Neal Finkelstein tel: 415.615.3171 Contact by Email