By Alison Griffin, Senior Vice President, External and Government Relations, USA Funds
It’s a truism that bad data leads to bad decisions. The decisions that are being made in Washington, D.C., and in statehouses across the country about future education and workforce development policy are critical to our nation’s continued economic prosperity.
Too often, though, policymakers are confronted by research of dubious value that is flung about by advocates on a particular side of an issue, with no good way for those policymakers to separate “the wheat from the chaff.”
As a former Congressional policy adviser, I know this reality all too well. Daily, I met with well-intentioned advocates and lobbyists who came armed with research in an attempt to make their case for policy change. It was my responsibility, in advising members of Congress on a host of legislative proposals, to present the most salient data points in order to advance our higher education policy agenda. I was never at a loss for high-quality independent research, but I spent a considerable amount of time trying to make sense of the information for my boss.
While it has been over a decade since my time on Capitol Hill, and access to information has become faster, more sophisticated and aided by improved technology, none of these new realities has resolved for policy staffers the need to translate complex research into consumable, actionable and applicable data points. USA Funds® believes that a critical element of promoting Completion With a Purpose℠ to enhance student success in college and careers is to arm policymakers with solid, trustworthy evidence of what truly works in helping students complete their postsecondary programs with the skills and competencies to succeed on the job.
Most recently we have funded, along with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a new policy resource from the Brookings Institution. To address the need to provide policymakers and others with regular access to high-quality evidence in a consumable form, Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow in the Center for Children and Families in the Economic Studies program at Brookings, is producing an ongoing series of weekly reports under the banner of Evidence Speaks. Each report is written by a leading researcher drawn from within Brookings and from external contributors who bring unique expertise to emerging policy issues. The goal for each report is clear policy relevance, a grounding in a high-quality evidence, and an engaging style.
The first report focuses on universal preschool. Future reports will be a mix of efforts, including:
- Drawing attention to the policy relevance of newly released research.
- Offering brief syntheses of research findings that are important for impending policy decisions.
- Examining particular policy proposals that are grounded in research.
- Creating data analyses on timely topics.
- Highlighting innovative approaches to higher education that seem promising and deserve careful implementation and evaluation.
- Offering recommendations and analyses relevant to the evidence agenda itself.
We believe that Evidence Speaks will provide policymakers — and their trusted advisers — with a reliable outlet for information on innovative and impactful solutions to the challenges of ensuring postsecondary education is completed and graduates are ready and able to connect to employment.