Consider now the harm. The vast quantity of educational research produced year in, year out, serves no real need or opportunity in the workaday world of schools, of their management, or of parenting. It does not arise to meet a felt demand from these quarters. It exists because the system of schooling requires many teachers and they require a professional preparation, which occurs primarily in academic institutions. In turn, those academic institutions need a faculty and they assess the ability to conduct and publish research as their primary criterion for deciding who to recruit, promote, and tenure as faculty members. The vast bulk of educational research will have no effect on anything except the process of recruitment, promotion, and tenure in schools of education. It exists for the sole reason that both individual researchers and the institutions that employ them consistently use the research for this purpose. (emphasis mine)And this is the problem. So much of this bulk of education research is total bullshit. Inevitably, there will be studies to support just about any ideological stance possible. Research can be cherry picked to provide realistic looking justification for just about any reform possible. If a school district wants to implement reform math, they will simply present the local school board with a few studies showing that a particular fluffy textbook or constructivist pedagogy has positive effects.
Of the top of my head, the only successful widespread use of data I can think of is the Reading First program, which was based on analysis of data by the National Reading Panel. Other than that, most studies might as well be written on toilet paper.
Even the largest most expensive and expansive education study ever conducted, Project Follow Through, was ignored and relegated to the dustbin of history. Only us DI "crackpots" seem to have any memory of it.
The What Works Clearinghouse is certainly an important step in helping to sort through all the BS out there, but as we have seen with its recent review of Reading Recovery, it's not infallible.
I hate to say it, but what we need is another Project Follow Through, though this time we pray that the increase in media exposure and the advent of the Internet will prevent the same dishonest ignoring of data that happened in the 70's. It's possible right?