The WWC is designed to help meet the demand for reviews of current educational programs, policies, and practices that claim to improve student outcomes. Reviews by the WWC will show educators which educational programs have been proven by scientific research and which have not. The clearinghouse uses a rigorous set of standards for its research reviews, standards created by a Technical Advisory Group of top educational researchers, including Dr. Douglas Carnine, a former member of NCLD's professional advisory board.
Demand for proven, research-backed educational programs has risen greatly in the past several years with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. The law puts a great deal of emphasis on "scientifically based" educational research and programs, and requires schools receiving federal money to use scientifically proven programs in the classroom. Recently quoted in Education Week, Dr. Russ Whitehurst, director of the Department of Education's main research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, said, "There is no trusted source of information for what research says in education, and there's a plethora of voices out there and curricula being advertised as scientifically based." The WWC site, he said, "will make it far easier to use research findings, will create new demand for research, and will set a clear quality standard for the next generation of research and evaluation studies in education."
The WWC site will review research in the areas of adult literacy; methods for dealing with delinquency, and disorderly and violent behavior; dropout prevention; increasing achievement in English language studies; math; and reading, among others. The clearinghouse rates reports as either "meeting standards" or "meeting standards with reservations" and summarizes the studies and reports on specific strengths and weaknesses. These strengths and weaknesses might include, for example, whether classrooms had actually begun to implement the intervention being tested or whether the study sample was large enough to generate meaningful results. Studies that do not meet WWC standards are listed but are not formally reviewed.
The clearinghouse currently has results from reviews of 370 studies posted on its Web site. Of these, 11 studies out of 300 reviewed on the subject of peer-assisted learning passed muster with the WWC, and 1 study out of 70 on the subject of middle school math curricula were given the clearinghouse's seal of approval.