Evidence-Based Reform in England

Fans of evidence-based reform in education have likely been spending some time this week combing through Sen. Harkin’s draft proposal for any language that could encourage or bolster greater use of effective strategies and programs. Meanwhile, there are extraordinary developments taking place in England that can teach us some lessons on advancing evidence based reform here in the States.

The new Conservative-led coalition government has been slashing government expenditures in every area, including education. However, despite the same budget pressures we have in the U.S., David Cameron’s government is investing in proven programs in education, on the basis that, in a time of austerity, the government needs to make sure that every pound is making a difference, and on the basis that investing in effective programs for children saves money in the future.

Three major developments are under way in England. First, Labor member of Parliament Graham Allen has created a detailed plan for investments in effective programs for children in all areas of development-birth to five, social emotional learning, and delinquency prevention in addition to reading and math. Second, the U.K. government has placed the equivalent of $200 million in the care of two foundations, the Sutton Trust and the Impetus Trust, to create the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF). The EEF will be making grants to elementary and secondary schools to help them adopt proven programs, such as those in the Graham Allen list. The EEF also will invest in capacity-building and evaluation. Third, the Mayor’s Fund for London, another private foundation, has begun a Flying Start program intended to help high-poverty schools in inner London adopt proven programs.

All of these initiatives resemble the U.S. Investing in Innovation (i3) program, which funds proven programs to build capacity and scale up. However, the initiatives in England offer funding to high-poverty schools throughout the country to adopt programs that can demonstrate effectiveness. Both capacity-building and direct funding for schools are indeed needed, and the U.S. and U.K. programs can learn a lot from each other as their different approaches are put to the test.

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