Observation tools allow researchers to rate practitioners’ use of a program or curriculum according to the time spent on its components and how they were implemented. Reflections on Methodology explains how researchers and model developers can collaborate to develop useful assessment tools and the benefits and challenges involved.
The new book Randomistas describes how randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have revolutionized many fields. RCTs are a uniquely powerful tool, but they are not the only way to build knowledge about effective programs for low-income people.
By combining prior beliefs about a program’s effectiveness with new data to produce a distribution of impacts, Bayesian statistics provides an alternative to classical methods that may be more useful for policymaking. Reflections on Methodology discusses some issues with and applications of this approach.
In the second of two posts on the research opportunities presented by school choice systems, Reflections on Methodology discusses a few issues common to lottery-based analyses — constrained statistical power, imperfect compliance, and restricted generalizability.
In a randomized controlled trial, measuring treatment contrast – the difference in services received by a program group and those in a counterfactual condition – is critical for understanding what a program’s effects suggest about the best ways to improve services. This paper explains why treatment contrast is important and offers guidance about how to measure it.
Testimony of Alexander Mayer, Deputy Director, Postsecondary Education, MDRC, Before the New Jersey State Assembly Higher Education Committee
On May 7, Alex Mayer discussed the challenge of developmental education for low-income college students in New Jersey and nationwide, citing recent innovations and growing evidence about what works to overcome barriers to college success. The strongest programs integrate several strategies, combining opportunity and obligation to address multiple student barriers.
A two-stage study design can test a complex set of interventions, individually and in combination. Reflections on Methodology shows how this approach was used for a pair of programs, the first administered in preschools and the second implemented as a kindergarten follow-up for individual students.
Multisite randomized trials allow researchers to study both the average impact of an intervention and how the impact varies across settings, which can help guide decisions in policy, practice, and science. This Reflections on Methodology post distills some key considerations for research design and for reporting and interpreting such variation.
Social network analysis models the structure of relationships using “nodes” (such as organizations) and “edges” (or ties, such as contracts). This Reflections on Methodology post highlights what the method can analyze — strength and complexity of connections, an organization’s positional power — in the context of a community development study in Chicago.
The proliferation of school choice systems offers researchers opportunities to study the effects of education reforms on a large scale, rigorously but relatively quickly. In the first of two posts on the subject, Reflections on Methodology discusses how to ensure that a school assignment process is truly random.