Districts were asked to state whether they recognized were aware of each of the four OERI-funded educational R&D programs 3. Overall, 9 out of 10 districts recognized at least 1 of the 4 programs; more specifically, 42 percent of the districts said they recognized all of them, roughly half of the districts (49 percent) were able to recognize some, and 9 percent were unable to recognize any of them (Figure 1). The most frequently recognized were ERIC Clearinghouses (82 percent) and Regional Laboratories (72 percent; Table 1). Less often recognized, but still by a majority, were NDN Facilitators (65 percent) and National Research and Development Centers (64 percent).
School districts receive research and development resources in two basic ways, directly and indirectly, and these may have different effects on district recognition. Districts" recognition may also be affected by other factors, including their role in providing funds for R&D resources.
Many school districts receive R&D resources directly from these OERI programs. This is true even in the case of Regional Educational Laboratories, which are contractually directed by OERI to work "with and through" established educational entities with a substantial portion of their resources. Districts have considerable opportunity for direct interaction with two other programs: ERIC may be accessed on-line or by CD-ROM through terminals at libraries and other locations to identify and obtain research reports and other information, and NDN State Facilitators are contacted directly for advice on identifying model programs that suit a district's needs. Because of the mission of the National Research and Development Centers to conduct research, instances of the Centers working directly with school districts are relatively less common, though later sections of this report will demonstrate that such contacts do occur.
The direct receipt of R&D resources from one of these programs may increase district awareness of the program. Direct receipt and high awareness may be most likely for those districts reporting they received services from these programs (such as seminars or training sessions, which involve personal contact with the supplier). In contrast, the receipt of OERI products, such as written reports, maybe less likely to create an awareness of the OERI program, especially when such products reach the district through a third party.5
School districts may acquire information and resources from these programs in a large variety of other, less direct ways. For example, Regional Educational Laboratories are required to use a substantial portion of their funds to work "with and through" established educational entities such as State departments of education, so districts may receive resources in the form of services or products from the State, rather than directly from the Laboratories. In these instances, a Laboratory's role may be "invisible" to the districts. The original source of the resources may not be clearly indicated, and even if the source is indicated, districts that receive materials from their State agencies may have little reason to note the Laboratory's involvement. One district indicated in an interview that its interest was in having a particular question answered, not in the source of the information. Even when a district initiates a request for information, the district may know only the name of an individual and a telephone number, and may not know what program was the provider.
The three other OERI-supported programs also may provide R&D resources in an indirect manner, depending on the nature of the program, its mission, and the target audience or users. The Centers, for example, have relatively limited direct contact with schools or school districts. State departments or professional associations may sponsor a teacher workshop and invite Center staff to make a presentation on some aspect of research. A Center report representing years of research may reach a district through an independent consultant. A new curriculum based on the work of a Center maybe adopted by a school system. A textbook publisher may integrate Center research findings or applications in publications, or may organize the presentation of material based on developments in learning theory from a Center. In such cases, the perceived role of the Centers may be obscure or unrecognized.
In the case of ERIC, a product may reach a district as part of a State initiative on a subject area. Information on a topic may also be requested by a district from a researcher at the State level who uses ERIC to obtain it. Again, the source may be obscured from the perspective of the district. (On the other hand, ERIC contains abstracts of publications produced by the Labs, Centers, and NDN, and a printed copy of the full document may be obtained from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service. Thus, ERIC may be the means by which the information from Labs, Centers, and NDN is acquired. The person obtaining the information may remember that ERIC was used and not take note of the original source.) Lastly, regarding NDN, individuals may learn of a particular project from the project itself, from the NDN catalogue, Educational Programs That Work, or through ERIC and thus bypass the NDN State Facilitator.
Another factor facilitating recognition of these OERI programs involves the districts' payments for some or all of the costs of a resource. Paying of a fee would heighten awareness of the source, and suggests that the request for resources may have been initiated by the district. An estimated 60 percent of all districts reporting they had received R&D resources from the Regional Laboratories paid for at least part of the cost (Figure 2). Information on the extent to which districts paid for services from the other programs was not sought. (Additional discussion of the funding arrangements for procuring Laboratory resources appears in the next major section of this report.)
In addition to receiving resources indirectly, there are other possible causes for a district not recognizing an OERI R&D program.
Certain district characteristics were related to districts' awareness of R&D resources. For each of the four OERI programs, recognition of sources was more likely among large districts (78-97 percent ) than among small districts (61-80 percent; table 1). Also, urban districts were more likely to recognize ERIC (92 percent) than rural districts (79 percent).7 Because the Regional Laboratories are the only one of the four programs with a regional rather than a national focus, the sample design and tabular presentation were specifically designed to allow separate analysis for each region served by a Laboratory contractor in the 1985-1990 funding period. For example, given the greater recognition of Laboratories by large districts noted above, a region with fewer and relatively larger districts might show greater recognition of Laboratories than a region with many small districts. Another more specific example is the comparison above of the Southwest and Appalachia regions: although the percentage recognizing the Laboratories was greater in Appalachia, the Southwest region has a much greater number of districts, and the estimated number of districts recognizing the Regional Laboratories was greater in the Southwest than the actual total number of districts in Appalachia.
3To help districts in correctly identifying these programs, the questionnaire was accompanied by a list of all Regional Educational Laboratories, National Research and Development Centers, and ERIC Clearinghouses, and a definition of NDN State Facilitators. This information may be found at the end of this report.
4The questionnaire defined services as including technical assistance, training, literature searches, and responses to inquiries, while products included publications, bulletins, and research reviews that contain R&D findings.
5These estimates are not included in the tables. Estimates (with a small rounding error) may be calculated by adding the percentage of districts as having received services only or both products and services from Tables 3, 5, 6 and 7 and by dividing by the sum by the percentage receiving R&D resources from the program (from Table 2).
6Readers may note from the table that urban districts showed more recognition than rural districts for each of the four OERI programs; however, only the difference for ERIC is statistically significant. Unless otherwise noted, only comparisons which are statistically significant are made in the body of this report.
7Throughout this report, an asterisk (*) is used to indicate estimates that are based on a small number of districts, and thus should not be considered as highly precise. A more detailed explanation of the process for flagging estimates may be found in the section on Survey Methodology and Data Reliability.
8A delineation of the States currently found in each region maybe found in the methodological section at the end of this report. There were different regional divisions in earlier periods of Laboratory history over the last 23 years.
For example, given the greater recognition of Laboratories by large districts noted above, a region with fewer and relatively larger districts might show greater recognition of Laboratories than a region with many small districts. Another more specific example is the comparison above of the Southwest and Appalachia regions: although the percentage recognizing the Laboratories was greater in Appalachia, the Southwest region has a much greater number of districts, and the estimated number of districts recognizing the Regional Laboratories was greater in the Southwest than the actual total number of districts in Appalachia.