Over the course of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, courts and legislatures have used law and policy in attempts to improve and equalize teaching and learning at scale. Many of these attempts have been grounded in appeals to social science evidence. As the argument goes, evidence from social science research and particularly educational research can play a vital role in large-scale education reform. Yet, it has proven very difficult for courts and legislatures to use research in a way that can produce significant, widespread, and lasting educational reform in schools. This presentation will explore why it is so difficult to use research to improve education through law and policy. The presentation will synthesize an array of literature from law, political science, history, and educational research to unpack major factors influencing the development of education law and policy, the implementation of education law and policy at local levels, and the place of social science evidence in these processes. Particular examples of the use of research in law and policy will be discussed, including clauses governing assessment practices in No Child Left Behind, school finance litigation requiring states to implement free preschool programs, and the recent Vergara litigation in California involving the legality of teacher tenure and dismissal laws. This presentation will conclude with a discussion of alternative ways to consider the relationship between educational research and policy, focusing on design-based implementation research as an illustrative example.