The best indicator of whether a strategy is worth exploration is evidence. Evidence is essential for informed decision making for policy and practice at all levels of education, from schools and districts to state education agencies.

This month, we highlight tools and resources designed to support informed decision making to improve outcomes for students now and into the future.

New Research and Perspectives to Inform Policy and Practice

WestEd is launching a new series of Policy Perspectives designed to bring evidence to bear on the most pressing challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The first paper in the series, Fair and Equitable Reductions to State Education Budgets: Evidence and Considerations for the 2020/21 Fiscal Year, encourages evidence-based approaches to state education budgets.

In the wake of public-health stay-at-home orders prompted by the coronavirus, the United States faces a nearly inevitable economic recession in the coming months. With a slowing economy will come a contraction in state revenues, including funding for public education. States are beginning to make budget-cutting calculations and are bracing for the effects of those cuts, even as they take into account likely support from the recent series of federal aid packages, with potentially more aid to come. Given these realities, now is an opportune time for policymakers to consider lessons learned from the Great Recession, as well as guidance from research about how funding and resource allocation affect the academic achievement of the country’s most vulnerable student populations. Read more.

Understanding the Experiences of LGBTQ Students in California

This report describes the school experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning or queer students. It draws on two years of California Healthy Kids Survey data from approximately 800,000 secondary school students and their perceptions of school supports, school safety, school engagement, academic performance, and mental health. Read more.

Reflections on Equity in Research and Evaluation

Equitable evaluation is an approach that addresses the dynamics and practices that have historically undervalued the voices, knowledge, expertise, capacity, and experiences of all evaluation participants and stakeholders, particularly people of color and other marginalized groups. This brief explores how equitable evaluation principles can be implemented. Read more.

REL West and ESSA Standards

REL West works to build the capacity of states and districts to better understand evidence standards in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and apply them to decisions pertaining to education policy and practice. The following tools are designed to aid in the decision-making process.

Accessing & Assessing Research and Evidence. This clickable guide provides a curated list of resources related to accessing and assessing evidence and research. It is intended to provide a one-stop shop for state education agency staff and technical assistance providers to build their knowledge and understanding about the ESSA evidence provisions and, in turn, support districts with their ESSA-related needs.

Applicability of Evidence-Based Information. This tool provides a set of seven considerations to determine if an intervention is suited to one’s local context. It will help those tasked with selecting evidence-based programs or strategies, especially those serving rural, small, and Native-serving schools that historically have not been included in education research, to screen research and determine applicability to their settings. It encourages educators to look more deeply at research evidence and interventions that could meet their needs.

Defining Your Approach to Implementing ESSA Evidence Standards: A Self-Guided Video Workshop

This interactive eight-minute video is designed to help state education agencies (SEAs) and their educational partners reflect on and begin to design their context-specific approach to supporting local education agencies (LEAs) in their selection and implementation of interventions based on the evidence provisions in ESSA.

Evidence-Based Improvement: A Guide for States to Strengthen Their Frameworks and Supports Aligned to the Evidence Requirements of ESSA. One of the broad intents of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is to encourage evidence-based decision making as standard practice. This guide provides an initial set of tools to help states and school districts understand and plan for implementing evidence-based improvement strategies.

For more information about evidence use in decision making: