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Key Strategies for Science of Adolescent Learning Should Guide Education Decisionmaking, Says New All4Ed Report

Researchers, Practitioners, and Policymakers Must Constantly Interact and “Broker” Implementation Actions to Infuse Science of Adolescent Learning into Education Policy and Practice

WASHINGTON, DC—Over the next two years, public education faces a critical moment created by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act requiring states and school districts to identify underperforming schools and create evidence-based plans to improve learning experiences and academic performance of all students. A new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) recommends key strategies for ensuring that science of adolescent learning principles move from established research findings to actual implementation in these schools through coordinated efforts among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

In addition to examining why now is a moment of significant opportunity and challenge in education, the report, Synapses, Students, and Synergies: Applying the Science of Adolescent Learning to Policy and Practice, reviews why adolescence is a critical period of development. It also highlights how organizations, including All4Ed, are making connections between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to ensure that research on the science of adolescent learning (SAL) informs practice and policy.

According to the report, research and modern technical advances have resulted in a dramatic increase in the quality and quantity of knowledge about how adolescent students learn and develop. However, research on how best to improve learning outcomes and close opportunity and achievement gaps for historically underserved students, including students of color and students from low-income families, too often fails to reach school districts, schools, classrooms, and communities in concrete and deliberate ways.

To ensure that SAL research informs education decisionmaking and teachers’ practice, the report makes two major recommendations. First, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers should participate in a continuous interactive triangle in which research supports good practice, good practice influences sound policy, and sound policy leverages and expands practice to inform further research. Second, the numerous organizations advancing and applying research should develop “brokering” strategies that move beyond simply translating academic findings into language for educators and policymakers and result in implementation.

“Traditionally the researcher and the practitioner are actively communicating, but the policymaker is largely left out,” says report author Bob Wise, president of All4Ed and former governor of West Virginia. “If science is to drive crucial education decisions, then all three must continuously interact. Adding brokering with school and district leaders about how to implement SAL in their unique situation avoids important research getting lost in translation or another unread book on an educator’s crowded shelf.”

Through its well-established relationships with researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, All4Ed is working to ensure that SAL findings reach secondary school education leaders positioned to implement innovative and effective education practices and policies that align with SAL research. Specifically, All4Ed, in collaboration with other SAL leaders, is

To support and facilitate the alignment of policy, research, and practice, All4Ed is collaborating with a group of world-class researchers, expert practitioners, and policymakers to create a set of SAL consensus statements that represent common agreements among leading researchers and their specific areas of study. In the coming months, All4Ed will release a series of SAL reports to introduce the consensus statements, provide supporting research, and identify implications for policy and practice around adolescent learners.

All4Ed also will highlight the work of these researchers and their perspectives through a forthcoming podcast and webinar series. As with all of All4Ed’s work, the research base developed and recommendations made through the SAL initiative will highlight unique lived experiences and implications of this knowledge for historically underserved students, specifically students of color and students from low-income families.

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.