Evidence-Based Interventions in Education (Part I): An Overview

A word cloud of the terms used in this article on evidence-based interventions

Now more than ever schools are expected to be implementing evidence-based policies, practices, and programs. Chances are you found Check & Connect because it’s considered an evidence-based intervention and is listed on several web sites as such. But what does it mean for an intervention to be evidence-based? How can you evaluate the evidence behind an intervention? How can you find other evidence-based interventions? In this blog post, we’ll attempt to tackle each of these questions. In Part II of this post, we’ll look at what makes Check & Connect evidence-based.

What are evidence-based interventions?

Evidence-based interventions are interventions that have credible and reliable evidence of effectiveness behind them – meaning that there is strong research to suggest that the interventions produce the expected and desired outcomes. In the case of Check & Connect, there have been rigorous research studies that have demonstrated its effects on attendance, credit accrual, behavior referrals, and graduation rates (Sinclair, Christenson, Evelo, & Hurley, 1998; Sinclair, Christenson, & Thurlow, 2005).

How do I evaluate the evidence behind an intervention?

Deciding whether or not the evidence provided for an intervention is credible and reliable can be difficult. One way to evaluate the evidence behind an intervention of interest to you is to closely read and analyze the research reported on it. For a brief, concise primer on reading educational research, visit Pearson’s Research & Innovation blog How to Read Education Research or McREL’s A Policy Maker’s Primer on Education Research, or pick up a copy of Patricia A. Lauer’s An Education Research Primer (2006).

But just because an intervention has research published on it or calls itself “research-based” doesn’t mean that we can take for granted that it’s evidence-based. It’s our job to read the research and ensure that the research was conducted in a rigorous manner and that the outcomes are statistically significant and meaningful.

Another option is to turn to one of the many organizations that have attempted to simplify the process of evaluating interventions by rating the effectiveness of interventions based on their own criteria. Perhaps the best-known and most accepted organization rating the effectiveness of interventions in education is the What Works Clearinghouse of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education. On its website, you can compare the effectiveness of interventions in such areas of education as dropout prevention, early childhood education, English Language Learners, literacy, math, science, and student behavior.

How do I find evidence-based interventions?

Take advantage of websites like the What Works Clearinghouse, the Promising Practices Network, and the University of Missouri Evidence Based Intervention Network, which have created databases of interventions and the evidence behind them. For more websites sharing evidence-based programs, search the web for “evidence-based programs in education.” Keep in mind that each site uses different criteria to establish what they consider to be evidence-based interventions, so take some time to get to know their criteria and how they define “evidence-based.”

Things to keep in mind about evidence-based interventions

Just because Check & Connect or any other intervention is considered evidence-based doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best intervention for your students or that there aren’t good programs available that aren’t evidence-based. Research that meets standards such as those set by WWC is expensive and takes time. Not all educational programs available can dedicate the resources needed for such research.

And we’re just at the front-end of the evidence-based movement, so it will take more time to gather evidence for all of the interventions out there. In the meantime, make sure you’re gathering your own evidence of effectiveness for interventions in your school and ensure you’re doing what works for your students. In a future blog post, we’ll cover how to evaluate the effectiveness of Check & Connect at your site. But first, watch for Part II of this post, which will examine what makes Check & Connect an evidence-based intervention and walk you through its What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report.

Do you have any other suggestions for finding evidence-based interventions or for being a savvy user of education research? Share your thoughts and ideas in our comment section below.


Sinclair, M. F., Christenson, S. L., Evelo, D. L., & Hurley, C. M. (1998). Dropout prevention for youth with disabilities: Efficacy of a sustained school engagement procedure. Exceptional Children, 65(1), 7–21.

Sinclair, M. F., Christenson, S. L., & Thurlow, M. L. (2005). Promoting school completion of urban secondary youth with emotional or behavioral disabilities. Exceptional Children, 71(4), 465–482.

About the Authors: This post was co-authored by Angie Pohl, Ph.D., and Chris Opsal, M.A., members of the Check & Connect team at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota.

© 2013 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

One thought on “Evidence-Based Interventions in Education (Part I): An Overview

  1. Pingback: Evidence-Based Interventions in Education (Part II): A Tour of Check & Connect’s What Works Clearinghouse Report | Attend, Engage, Invest

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