Making Good Use of Policy Research

BOULDER, CO (May 11, 2016) – One way to ignore solid evidence is to dismiss research because “it can be made to say anything.” This is unfortunately true. But we toss the baby out with the bathwater when we ignore all studies because some are fatally flawed.

Five tips for identifying higher-quality studies and otherwise making better use of education policy research are offered in a single-page brief that NEPC is reissuing today with clarified language for Step Three (reading p values).

“When readers heed basic cautions, research can provide valuable guidance that helps them learn from past experiences rather than reinventing the wheel by repeatedly re-introducing policies and practices that have failed in the past,” said Holly Yettick, PhD, director of the Education Week Research Center and author of the brief.

Yettick briskly walks through some of the key issues that readers of education research should understand. These topics include:

  • Peer review
  • The importance of prioritizing research reviews over standalone studies
  • “P values” and statistical significance
  • Effect sizes
  • Research in real-world situations

This brief is one in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that take up a number of important policy issues and identify policies supported by research. Each focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

Find Holly Yettick’s brief on the NEPC website at:

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice ( 

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: