Discretion in the Translation of Reading Research to Policy

CIERA Report #3-006

Barbara M. Taylor, University of Minnesota
Richard C. Anderson, University of Illinois
Kathryn H. Au, University of Hawaii
Taffy E. Raphael, Oakland University

CIERA Inquiry 3: Policy and Profession
Can researchers do more to guarantee that their research is not misused or misinterpreted? How can educational researchers ensure that the context and complexity of the problems they investigate are taken into account when their research is put to use?

Today, when information spreads like wild fire through the media and across the Web, we argue that the standards for reporting and interpreting educational research should be raised. The need for a higher standard is urgent in fields such as beginning reading, in which public interest is intense, because findings can quickly become distorted or misinterpreted and enshrined through misinformed policy decisions. Researchers investigating beginning reading should exercise extra caution to delimit findings from their own studies. They should take special pains to show how studies contribute to a larger picture of literacy development which policy makers and educational leaders, in turn, need to consider. We examine one recent, and uncommonly influential, reading methods study as an example of research that has been overly promoted by the media and misused by some policy makers and educational leaders to support a simple solution to the complex problem of raising the literacy of young children in high poverty neighborhoods.

University of Michigan School of Education

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To appear in Educational Researcher.