Editor's note: This post is the sixth entry of a multi-part series of interviews featuring Fordham's own Andy Smarick and Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at Holy Cross. It originally appeared in a slightly different form at Education Week's K-12 Schools: Beyond the Rhetoric blog. Earlier entries can be found here, here, here, here, and here.
Schneider: In our previous post, you implied—through one of your fictional stories—that research could be used in the courts to establish particular policy positions, and I'd like to follow up on that.
I'm perpetually frustrated by the fact that, for every complex issue, there is competing research to cite. It's a real dilemma for which I don't really see a solution. Maybe we can talk through this a bit.
Smarick: I actually see the vast majority of research as complementary, not competing.
Studies on the same subject often ask different questions, use different data sets, and have different methodologies. So if you only read the titles, you might think two reports are in conflict; but once you get into the details, you see that they paint a fuller picture of some issue when taken together. Let me give you just one very simple example.
Some research shows that early-childhood programming can help disadvantaged kids show up for kindergarten much better prepared to learn. Other research shows that some of these programs aren't effective and that, in lots of cases, the benefits of pre-K can wear off somewhere down the line (say, when...