Common-Sense Evidence

Common-Sense Evidence The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research

Nora Gordon and Carrie Conaway
paper, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: August 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-505-9
Price: $33.00

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cloth, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: August 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-506-6
Price: $62.00

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Written by two leading experts in education research and policy, Common-Sense Evidence is a concise, accessible guide that helps education leaders find and interpret data and research, and then put that knowledge into action.


Common-Sense Evidence is a breath of fresh air in a policy context that narrowly and, largely unsuccessfully, has privileged particular kinds of evidence and particular kinds of use. Gordon and Conaway empower education leaders with expert guidance on finding, creating, and using evidence in ways that actually meets their needs. Through explanation, example, and tools, the book is direct, actionable, and elevates the user to the center of the research use agenda. — Elizabeth N. Farley-Ripple, associate professor and director of Partnership for Public Education, University of Delaware

Bridging the connection between research and real-world practice is a critical need, but there are very few tools to show us how. Common-Sense Evidence is a practical guide for unpacking problems and making research more intuitive and accessible for educators. It gives us a process for understanding how to take what we learn and apply it, so research can actually improve the work of teachers and leaders. — Candice McQueen, chief executive officer, National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, former Tennessee Commissioner of Education

Policy makers and practitioners need evidence to make decisions. But the available evidence base is often overwhelming, and there’s frequently a disconnect between the evidence that leaders need and what researchers produce. In this must-read book, Nora Gordon and Carrie Conaway—trailblazers in connecting leaders with research—demystify the research process. And, even more importantly, they give leaders the power to build and nurture truly evidence-driven learning organizations. — David Figlio, Orrington Lunt Professor and Dean, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Given the need to interest more administrators in research to improve curriculum and instruction, I recommend this work as a companion to a traditional education statistics text. Gordon and Conaway teach useful methods for securing data for suggestive consideration. — School Administrator

The text clearly belongs on the desk of district leaders as well as in the classrooms of educational leadership programs. Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research is arguably one of the most meaningful texts related to the development of successful educational leaders in current times. — Journal of School Choice

Part of the "Race and Education" series, Common-Sense Evidence explores the personal experiences and systemic structures navigated by first-generation Chicana/o/x college students, fitting well within the current interest in diversity, inclusivity, and understanding the lived experiences of people of color. The information presented here is exceptionally valuable for faculty members looking for insights into pedagogical approaches, practices, and policies vital to serving Chicana/o/x students. — American School Board Journal

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About the Authors

Nora Gordon is an associate professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. She also is a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonresident fellow of the Urban Institute, a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and an associate editor of the journal Education Finance and Policy. Her research examines how education policy affects equity. In addition to publishing her own research on school finance and other equity-related topics in academic journals, she enjoys writing for popular audiences. She has written for the New York Times, Education Week, and; has been interviewed on NPR a number of times; and was a regular contributor to the Evidence Speaks blog at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Gordon has testified before Congress on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and served on the Institute of Education Sciences expert panel on the Study of the Title I Formula. She earned her PhD in economics from Harvard University and her BA in economics from Swarthmore College.

Carrie Conaway is a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she teaches students how to use evidence to improve organizations and how to interpret data effectively—the same skills covered in this book. Until June 2019, she was the research and planning director for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the first research director in a state education agency in the nation. During her twelve years there, she commissioned over two hundred studies and developed five research-practice partnerships to help the agency improve its work. She received the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Workforce Mentoring Award in 2014. Before her state service, she was a journalist and the deputy director of a research center on regional economic policy. In 2018, she was elected president of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, a national association of education policy researchers. She writes frequently in peer-reviewed and general-audience publications on the use of research in education policy. She earned her MA in sociology from Harvard University, her MA in public affairs from the University of Minnesota, and her BA in sociology from Oberlin College.

Gordon and Conaway met as graduate students in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality & Social Policy and have enjoyed discussing the mysterious shortage of common sense in education research, public policy, and academia ever since.

Table of Contents


Interview with Carrie Conaway

The Educational Innovation Series

Other books in Leadership

Other books in Leadership

Other books in Leadership

Unconscious Bias in Schools

Tracey A. Benson and Sarah E. Fiarman, Foreword by Glenn E. Singleton

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