Over the last two decades, state education agencies (SEAs) have been given considerable responsibilities for improving low-performing schools and for adopting research-based practices in doing so. Yet we know little about how and where these organizations search for, select, and use research and other kinds of evidence. We examined these questions as they relate to school improvement designs and strategies in three SEAs using a combination of surveys and interviews conducted in 2010–11. We found that SEA staffs relied most heavily on their colleagues for information but that information often flowed across departments and offices, contrary to the usual image of the SEA as a segmented and siloed bureaucracy. A large number of external organizations were identified in SEA research advice networks and played a catalyzing role in the design or elaboration of research for policy. Although most sources were named by just one person, each SEA also had central internal staff who played an important role in brokering research on school improvement. Identifying and cultivating such influential actors, and connecting individuals who are now isolated or only weakly engaged in these communication networks, could create a more robust exchange of knowledge around school improvement.
This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the Peabody Journal of Education 87:5, 609-626, 2012, available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/ DOI:10.1080/0161956X.2012.723506.