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Examining the Inaccuracies and Mystifying Policies and Standards of the What Works Clearinghouse: Findings from a FOIA Request

Reviewing documentation related to 62 Quality Reviews of What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) publications, this report summarizes the reasons for the reviews, the revisions made and not made, and the inconsistent application of WWC policies during the publication of these reports and during the Quality Reviews. This information was obtained in the fall of 2013 via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). These Quality Reviews were performed in response to the concerns of 54 organizations, study authors, program developers, teachers, and education researchers.Forty-one different instructional programs and study reviews were examined in these Quality Reviews. This documentation revealed a wide range of concerns, particularly the misinterpretation of study findings. This issue was given specific attention, especially in relation to how the WWC accounts for the fidelity of implementation when determining their rating of effectiveness for specific programs. With the information provided from the FOIA request and the publicly available information three conclusions appear clear. 1) The WWC suffers from a lack of transparency in their policies and guidelines, 2) the conclusions they create in their reports can be misleading, and 3) the reports are potentially damaging to program developers and ultimately the success of students.

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