The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which places high stakes on student and school test performance, is a hotly debated federal policy issue. This study will examine when and how policymakers use research on two critical components of ESEA reauthorization: student outcomes and school turnaround. The investigators will examine the extent to which research is employed by different policy actors, which research they feature, and why they may ignore other studies. They will explore how policymakers’ “theories of action” (narratives that guide beliefs, strategies, and decision-making processes) and “knowledge ecologies” (the social and political system in which policymakers are situated) shape how they perceive problems and construct solutions as well as gather, synthesize, and use research. The team will follow the policy process, collecting multi-method, qualitative data (observations, document analysis, and interviews) at three critical points: the fall election period in 2012, the spring of 2013, and the spring to fall of 2014. By sampling policymakers in a consistent set of roles over time, the study will employ a longitudinal design to track and capture research use across the ESEA reauthorization process.
What is the role of research in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)?