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Research Questions

  1. What sources of guidance do teachers and principals consult when making decisions about strategies to address student's academic and behavioral needs?
  2. What factors do teachers and principals view as important when selecting interventions?

Teachers and school leaders frequently make decisions about which strategies will best support students who struggle academically or behaviorally, but evidence-based information about the quality of these strategies is not always available. Moreover, educators do not always find the available evidence to be useful, and they consider a variety of other factors to be relevant to these decisions. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides new opportunities to use federal funds to support interventions (i.e., programs, practices, or strategies) that address not only academic achievement but also students' social, emotional, and behavioral needs. Several ESSA funding streams require that interventions be supported by research evidence and by an assessment of local context and the specific needs of students. Such resources as the What Works Clearinghouse and the Regional Education Laboratories can help educators identify relevant evidence, but education leaders and policymakers need to understand which sources educators turn to and on what basis they select interventions. Recent survey data from the RAND Corporation's American Educator Panels can inform our understanding of where educators find information to inform their academic and nonacademic strategies — from peers, leaders, the internet, or from other sources. These data also shed light on the considerations that educators prioritize when making decisions about interventions.

Key Findings

Colleagues, support staff, school and district leaders are go-to sources

  • More than half of teachers indicated that the first source they would use to find an intervention would be another teacher, support staff, or a school or district leader. The percentage of teachers who said they would first go to a school or district leader or to support staff was higher for nonacademic than for academic interventions.
  • Principals also tended to consult with colleagues, with approximately half indicating that the first resource on interventions they would recommend to their teachers would be a teacher, staff member, or administrator at their own or another school. Principals' responses were similar for academic and nonacademic areas.
  • For academic interventions, nearly one-fifth of teachers reported that their initial strategy would be to develop a resource themselves or ask other staff to do so; 11 percent of teachers said this would be their initial strategy for nonacademic interventions. Teachers were also more likely to conduct an internet search for academic than nonacademic interventions. Online social networks were the least frequently selected resource among both teachers and principals.
  • Among principals, the factors most frequently rated as "very important" when selecting interventions were applicability to their students and/or school context and rigor of evidence regarding intervention efficacy. For teachers, top factors were applicability to students or school context, ease of implementation, and ease of accessing information and resources.

Recommendations

  • Educators may benefit from guidance to help balance relevance to local context, rigor of evidence, and feasibility concerns when selecting interventions.
  • Because colleagues are such an important source of information, researchers and policymakers who are interested in promoting greater use of high-quality, evidence-based materials should consider ways to leverage existing colleague networks or develop new ones that can foster productive dialogue about interventions that are both evidence-based and aligned with local contexts and needs.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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