The Importance of Education Policy Research

Updated: Jul 13

By Dr. Marquita Hockaday


Consider that omnipresent, yet pertinent quote from historians: “It’s important to study history so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past?” The saying is close to that (Caveat: I did major in history as an undergraduate AND I taught history in grades 6-12 for over eight years, so I really should know this line well…) Whether those are the exact words or not, the sentiment behind the quote is what matters, and that sentiment remains when it comes to studying and understanding education policy research.


First, what is education policy? According to Ballotpedia (2021), education policies are the plans and principles put in place to educate students. Since education has existed in our nation, the goals of education policies have included citizenship, literacy, preparation for college and the workforce, preparation for the global market, diversity, helping students to become critical thinkers, and creating common standards for students across the nation. When reviewing education policy, it is important that some questions are considered--such as what are we teaching and how is that instruction being evaluated? What standards are we using to measure academic success?


Shaffer Evaluation Group (SEG) provides an evaluation service where we assist organizations with answering the question of how instruction (or other outputs, such as assessments and teacher training programs) is being evaluated. Additionally, SEG assists organizations with answering the question of what standards of measurement might be used to measure success. For instance, an organization wants to determine how well they are doing with implementing a new education policy initiative related to COVID-19. The school or district may be working on integrating engaging virtual lessons and reach out to SEG regarding a non-experimental study to gauge the fidelity of their existing programs. SEG’s data collection would include interviews, focus groups, and possible quantitative data (e.g., surveys).


Educators should take the time to research, review, and understand existing policy and its impact on the current state of educational practice. Additionally, it’s important to evaluate the fidelity to which these policies are put into practice. More information about how SEG can assist with program evaluation can be found here.