Districts were asked to list one R&D resource from any source that had been received since September 1987 and had been particularly useful. For the resource identified, districts were asked to supply the title or description, the provider or publisher, the date, and whether the resource was a service, a product, or both.
An unweighted total of 724 of the 1,039 respondents (70 percent) listed some type of R&D resource. Districts varied considerably in the amount of detail they were able to provide. Some provided specific titles, providers, and publication dates, while others provided highly general information such as "ERIC searches" or "information on policy analysis."11
Districts' responses were categorized according to the provider or publisher of the R&D resource, and according to the content area. When classifying the providers, it was recognized that resources may have multiple sources (e.g., a publication from a Regional Laboratory might be obtained through an ERIC search or a service might be co-sponsored). Therefore, all known providers were counted for each resource named (the greatest number of providers identified was four). Further, since the list of providers given by the school districts might be incomplete (e.g., through a lack of awareness of the original source of an R&D resource), districts' responses were reviewed by OERI/Programs for the Improvement of Practice (PIP) program staff and the Regional Laboratories. These reviews and other supplementary investigations helped to identify the original providers of most resources received by school districts. Classifications by content area were reviewed in a similar manner. However, R&D resources were classified into the primary content area, rather than assigning a resource to multiple categories.
The primary finding was the great diversity among districts' responses.12 Districts cited R&D resources from a wide variety of providers, and a high proportion of their responses reflected unique R&D resources. (The exact number of unique R&D resources is difficult to identify because two districts may describe the same resource in different manners, but at least 500 of the R&D resources listed by districts appeared to be unique.)
A total of 796 references to providers were compiled for the 724 R&D resources; this includes 65 districts for which multiple providers were identified, and 44 districts for which no provider was listed.13 The most frequently mentioned providers were the OERI Regional Laboratories (171 mentions), State educational entities (120), ERIC (106), and NDN (96). The four OERI-funded programs (Laboratories, Centers, ERIC, and NDN) received 391 mentions (49 percent), although the focus of the questionnaire on these programs may have increased the likelihood of their being mentioned (Table 11).
R&D resources reported by respondents were classified into 8 content categories (Table 12):
Some of the specific subcategories for which resources were frequently mentioned were: school improvement (17 percent), individual curriculum content areas (15 percent), staff development and teacher evaluation (10 percent), and at-risk students (10 percent).
11Data from open-ended questions generally do not have the same statistical reliability as answers to other questions. Respondents often are less likely to complete such questions, producing a higher item nonresponse rate. Respondents' answers may vary depending on who fills out the questionnaire, and depending on what issues or reports a respondent has dealt with most recently. The focus on OERI- funded programs in the questionnaire may also increase respondents' tendency to emphasize R&D resources received from those sources. Finally, because few districts mentioned any single R&D resource or provider, it is difficult to estimate the number of unique resources that would be mentioned in a survey of the entire population. For these reasons, data presented in this section are not weighted to represent the entire population of public school districts.
12To some degree, the level of diversity found depends on the research methodology used, and high diversity among the responses is common when open-ended questions are used. Nevertheless, if only a small number of R&D resources were being produced and distributed, or if a few resources clearly stood out in their usefulness, even an open-ended question would show a high level of agreement among the districts. Thus, the diversity of responses that occurred remains an important finding.
13The term reference is used loosely here. It includes cases where OERI program officials identified the original sources of the listed R&D resources, even if the respondents had failed to identify those sources. Also, for those cases where OERI officials were able to identify two references as not being unique (e.g., a respondent wrote the name of the NDN State Facilitator, and also wrote NDN), only a reference to the relevant program was counted (e.g., the preceding exam le would be coded as being provided by NDN, but not as being provided by and individual). We cannot guarantee that all such non unique references were discovered, however.