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Research Coalition Seeks Ways to Experiment Without Expense

Randomized controlled trials may be considered the "gold standard" for education research, and in many cases the emphasis is on the gold; it can be prohibitively expensive for many researchers to identify and randomize large groups of students or schools for experimentation.

That's why the Washington-based Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy—strong advocates of using experimental studies for education evaluations—have launched a three-year project to prove randomized trials can be done without blowing the whole research budget or waiting seven years for results. The coalition plans to identify and fund three low-cost RCTs on critical education policy issues.

The group also plans to co-host a workshop for researchers interested in the method this summer with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The White House this year repeatedly encouraged federal education, health and other programs to use more low-cost experimental studies to evaluate federal programs.

The role of randomized trials in education research is likely to come up in the next iteration of the federal education research law—whenever Congress gets around to reauthorizing it—and the Institute of Education Sciences and its research board have been trying to find more efficient ways to use experimental designs for some time.

Researchers and educators interested in participating in the project can apply here.

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