December 12, 2003, Extra Credit
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December 12, 2003
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Scientifically Based Research

One of the key components of No Child Left Behind is an effort to target resources to educational programs that have been demonstrated to be effective through rigorous scientific research. Programs and practices grounded in scientifically based research are not fads or untested ideas: they have proven track records of success. When reviewing research findings to determine whether they meet the criteria for scientifically based research, the following questions are important to consider:

  1. Use of rigorous, systematic and empirical methods.
    Does the work have a solid theoretical or research foundation? Was it carefully designed to avoid biased findings and unwarranted claims of effectiveness? Does the research clearly delineate how the research was conducted, by whom it was conducted and on whom it was conducted?

  2. Adequacy of data to justify the general conclusions drawn.
    Was the research designed to minimize alternative explanations for observed effects? Are the observed effects consistent with the overall conclusions and claims of effectiveness? Does the research present convincing documentation that the observed results were the result of the intervention? Does the research make clear what populations were studied (i.e., does it describe the participants’ ages, as well as their demographic, cognitive, academic and behavioral characteristics) and does it describe to whom the findings can be generalized? Does the study provide a full description of the outcome measures?

  3. Reliance on methods that provide valid data across multiple measurements and observations.
    Are the data based on a single-investigator, single-classroom study, or did multiple investigators in numerous locations collect similar data? What procedures were in place to minimize researcher biases? Do observed results hold up over time? Are the study interventions described in sufficient detail to allow for replicability? Does the research explain how instructional fidelity was ensured and assessed?

  4. Use of control groups.
    Has a randomly assigned control group or some other kind of comparison group been used?

  5. Details allow for replication.
    Does the study clearly explain how the treatment was designed? Is there enough detail to replicate the study?

  6. Acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts.
    Has the review been rigorous and objective? Has the research been carefully reviewed by unbiased individuals who were not part of the research study? Have the findings been subjected to external scrutiny and verification?

For more information on quality research, go to the What Works Clearinghouse Web site at


About Extra Credit
NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 12/12/2003