In November 2019, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) listed UNT among an exclusive group of research-based organizations on ED’s Institute of Education Science’s (IES’s) website (see https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Reviewer#/Keyword:University%20of%20North%20Texas,SetNumber:1). IES has certified these organizations as having expert knowledge in ED’s gold standard for group-comparison research designs that target student-learning outcomes, including post-secondary outcomes.
Career Connect’s Outcomes Assessment Specialist, Dr. Peecksen, has obtained this certification or is certified in ED’s What Works Clearinghouse Group Design research standards, versions 2.0, 3.0, and most recently 4.0. As an employee of UNT and through his certification, UNT is also certified under WWC 4.0 standards.
Among the nation’s 131 top-tier research universities, only seven are listed on this IES website as WWC certified, contributing to their reputation for research excellence. UNT is now the seventh R1 institution listed, along with John Hopkins, University of Chicago, Michigan State University, Ohio University, University of Central Florida, and the University of Oregon. As of November 2019, no other universities (e.g., R2 or lower) are listed on this website.
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), developed by ED’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in 2002, reviews existing high-quality research on different programs, products, practices, and policies in education with the goal of providing educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions (https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/WhoWeAre). IES uses certified WWC reviewers to conduct quality assurance on peer-reviewed or other existing group-comparison design research, as well as other WWC-products, that focuses on student learning outcomes.
Only researchers with a Ph.D. can obtain WWC certification through in-person trainings in Washington, D.C., followed by multiple online trainings and tests, and several mock reviews, where trainees have to successfully apply WWC review standards to previously published (and peer-reviewed), group-comparison design research.
As a WWC-certified organization, UNT can provide expert knowledge to the public and other entities about the application of WWC standards and procedures to group-comparison design research. More importantly, UNT’s WWC certification will bolster its reputation as an organization with expertise in conducting rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental designs that meet ED’s gold standard and allow for causal interpretations of treatment impacts on student learning outcomes.
WWC certification will also benefit UNT’s SACSCOC’s fifth-year report because Career Connect will report that UNT’s QEP is adhering to rigorous, causal methodologies that ensure accurate interpretation of QEP impacts on students’ retention and cumulative grade point average.
Finally, having WWC certification will help UNT to address higher education’s recent call (CHEA-CIQG, 2018) for more rigorous alternative approaches to judging quality in higher education. Fresh approaches to quality assurance are needed for competency-based education and experiential and service learning and UNT’s WWC-based evaluation of Career Connect provides such an approach.