Scientifically based research

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Scientifically based research (SBR) is the required standard in professional development and the foundation of academic instruction under the guidelines of No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).[1]

The definition of what should be considered to be "scientifically based" has been the subject of a great deal of controversy, particularly relating to the Reading First program authorized under NCLB. The first time the concept appeared in Federal legislation was in the Reading Excellence Act, and subsequently the term appeared in the Comprehensive School Reform program authorized for many years on the annual appropriations bills.

NCLB, however, marked the first time that the idea that education practice should be scientifically based became a central feature of major federal education legislation. Within the Act, the Reading First program became the standard bearer for this concept – or its misapplication. After publishing a series of 7 reports on the mismanagement of Reading First – and referring the matter to the Justice Department – the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) requested that the US Congress clarify what is meant by scientifically based, and whether it is sufficient to contain elements that have been researched, or whether it's necessary for a program's efficacy to have itself been researched.

Since the 2001 passage of NCLB, various efforts have been undertaken both by the US government and by private businesses to create databases of such scientifically based, or scientifically proven, programs. Examples of these databases include the What Works Clearinghouse, a program of the federal Institute of Education Sciences that has been criticized for its questionable standards[citation needed] and extremely slow review process; the Doing What Works web site, an attempt to address criticisms of the WWC; and the Best Evidence Encyclopedia, a grant-funded site operating under the Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education. This site, known as the BEE, synthesizes the available research on specific education programs in several formats, including summaries directed to educators.


  1. ^ (nd) Title IX - General Provisions. Department of Education. Retrieved 6/7/07.

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