The Texas Education Agency (TEA) Best Practices Clearinghouse (BPC) Evidence Standards are designed to help stakeholders understand the type of evidence available for a given Best Practice Summary. All three BPC Evidence Types represent evidence-based practices. The graphic below depicts the three BPC Evidence Types and the tradeoffs that should be considered in terms of both the strength of evidence and the generalizability of results. For example, while a summary designated as an “Established Best Practice” has the strongest quantitative evidence, this evidence type may only be applicable to practices that were implemented on a small scale in very specific settings. Therefore, there may be a tradeoff between more stringent quantitative data and generalizability (or applicability) to your school or district.
A general description of each BPC Evidence Type, along with practical guidelines for when to implement practices within each designation, follows.
BPC Evidence Type
- Established Best Practice: This evidence type is based primarily on quantitative data, supported by TEA and local program staff reports. Outcomes are positive, with results that hold across at least three years of trend data. Practices that are given this evidence type may be more generalizable to your school/district.
- Best to choose when: Practices that are assigned the Established Best Practice type are worth considering when policymakers want to see quantitative evidence about a practice’s effectiveness.
- When to proceed with caution: Although the evidence for this designation must be quantitative, some practices (e.g., those that are supported by trend data) may not meet the standards of the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) or other national standards. However, these practices do meet generally accepted standards for evidence-based research.
- Emerging Practice: These practices are based on a combination of staff observations, expert opinion through a literature base, and up to two years of trend data. Because an Emerging Practice is not based on statistical evidence, it is especially important to make sure that these practices have been tested and proven in settings and with students similar to those in your school/district. Practices assigned this evidence type may be more applicable because experts have observed the practices over long periods of time or in multiple settings and can offer practical guidance to ensure their success at your local campus or district. Statistical evidence, on the other hand, often does not provide all the information needed to ensure that a practice can successfully be replicated in your school/district.
- Best to choose when: If you are serving a population similar to that targeted by the practice, a combination of qualitative data, literature, and trend data is often preferable to evidence that, despite its rigor, may not be relevant to your population of interest
- When to proceed with caution: If policymakers require quantitative (statistical) evidence of a practice’s impact, practices assigned this evidence type may not be appropriate for consideration. Likewise, if your population of interest is substantially different than that targeted by the practice, this may not be the most appropriate choice of practices to replicate in your school or district.
- Theory-Based Practice: This evidence type is designed to capture innovations in practice that are not mature enough to have a strong base of statistical research or which may not lend themselves easily to measurement. These practices, however, must be supported by staff observation of effectiveness and a theoretical literature base.
- Best to choose when: Many practices that do not have standard outcome measures with high external validity (e.g., art classes, physical education classes) will likely receive this designation. This type of evidence is also worth reviewing because it may include new ideas in the field.
- When to proceed with caution: When policymakers require quantitative (statistical) evidence of a practice’s impact, these practices may not be appropriate for consideration. They also may not be appropriate if other, similar practices have a stronger evidence base.
When assessing the evidence, please keep these practical considerations in mind:
Scientifically based research isn’t necessarily better: Although strong research designs can provide a compelling level of evidence for adopting a practice, these rigorous studies are often limited in scale by the cost of recruitment and data collection. Scientifically based research, therefore, may be based on small samples of students who may not be representative of the students in your school/district:
- Expert opinion and theory is valid evidence: There is almost universal agreement among researchers that statistical evidence is preferable to expert opinion because it takes the bias out of the decision-making process. Statistical evidence, however, can often be limited in its ability to explain why an outcome occurred. Expert opinion and theory can fill gaps in knowledge and should be considered in tandem with quantitative evidence.
- Context matters: The BPC will be used by stakeholders to decide which practices should be adopted in schools/districts. It is recommended that anyone reviewing evidence should pay attention to the context in which that evidence was generated. For example, what may work well for students in urban settings may not be appropriate for students in rural settings.
- Some programs may not be amenable to scientific research: Some practices do not have clear outcome measures, do not take into account all student variables, or have benefits that are not captured by standard measures. This is true of programs as diverse as arts education and dropout prevention where some student benefits may not be captured through standard measures.
- Evidence can be scarce: Considering which practices to adopt in your school/district may be difficult because evidence is scarce. It is rare to find research that is based on a strong research design and that is broadly generalizable to a number of different settings. In making decisions about which practices to adopt, it is best to balance the rigor of the research with its generalizability to your specific student population or setting. This is as much of an art as it is a science.
Ultimately, the presentation of these BPC Evidence Types should help to facilitate decisions made by practitioners and improve the quality of instruction and services for students across Texas.