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Research Use in School District Central Office Decision Making: A Case Study

The current educational policy climate in the United States places immense pressure on school district central offices to use evidence to inform their decisions in order to improve student learning. In light of both the expectations of evidence-based decision-making and the significance of central offices in supporting teaching and learning, there is considerably little understanding of whether, how, and why central office decision-makers use research evidence to support educational decisions. Through an embedded case study of Hamilton School District and three central office decisions, this research examines the role of research in central office decisions, focusing on how research is used, what research resources are used, and the factors that influence use. Evidence of limited instrumental and political uses of research in comparison to conceptual and symbolic use, preferences for practitioner-oriented resources, and the importance of research attributes, organizational context and culture, and decision-maker characteristics are presented. Findings suggest a need for strategies to improve instrumental use, including reconsidering the production and dissemination of research, facilitating the flow of knowledge within the central office, and further examination of conceptual uses of research.

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Citation: Farley-Ripple, E.N. (2012). Research use in school district central office decision making: A case study. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 40(6), 786–806.