04/03/2014 09:57 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wink Wink Nudge Nudge: Use Proven Programs


Discussions about evidence-based reform in education often founder on the question of financing. Who is going to provide the funding necessary to help schools adopt proven programs?

There are some areas in which additional funding might be necessary, which I'll address in a moment. But the most important federal action to promote adoption of proven programs is to encourage schools and districts to use existing federal funding in this way. In particular, leaders of high-poverty schools constantly sniff the wind to be aware of what the feds want them to do. If the feds say "Wink wink nudge nudge, use proven programs," high-poverty schools will get a lot more interested in what these are and how they can get ahold of them. Beyond winks and nudges, the feds and state leaders can offer a few competitive preference points to proposals that promise to adopt and effectively implement proven programs. Again, if government is handing out discretionary money based on local proposals, it costs nothing to nudge these proposals toward proven programs.

Of course, government funding is needed to help develop and evaluate promising programs, and sometimes to provide incentive or start-up funding to help schools or districts adopt them. But the really big money, like Title I and Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants, is what should be phasing toward support for proven approaches, and with a wink, a nudge, some competitive preference points, and an ever-growing set of proven programs from which schools may choose, our system of schooling can become far more effective over time, especially for the struggling schools that receive the largest amounts of federal funding.