Education Policy, Politics, and Evidence

How does politics influence incentives to acquire, interpret, and use research evidence in policymaking?

Stephen Weatherford and Lorraine McDonnell plan to extend their analyses of the data collected during their Foundation-supported study on the use of research evidence in the development and adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to produce a book that examines this process in detail. The book will also describe how lessons learned from this process generalize to other youth-related policies, supplementing the CCSS analyses with a study of the enactment of the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The aim of the book is to explore the use of research evidence through a political lens to identify both the information needs and incentives of policymakers and ways to increase the effective use of research evidence in the policy process. Weatherford and McDonnell will first examine the functions that research evidence and other types of evidence play in the process of making policy decisions. Given that evidence can serve multiple functions, the team will examine how research is seen as attractive and used as compared to other types of evidence, with attention to the implications for researchers. The second goal of the book is to identify the conditions and incentives that account for variation in the use of research evidence in policymaking. These findings can help researchers better understand how their work can inform this process. The authors will study participants in the policy process (i.e., elected officials and their staffs, interest groups, and policy entrepreneurs) and examine their incentives for producing, transmitting, and using evidence across the policy process and in different institutional settings (e.g., in committees or within state political contexts). Weatherford, McDonnell, and their research assistants will conduct further analyses of their interview and documentary data from their previous grant on CCSS, collect additional documents and conduct follow-up interviews to track the continued implementation of CCSS in their four focal states, and collect new data on the enactment of CHIP.