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Chasing Randomized Trials--The Research to Nowhere

Posted By: Dick Schutz on December 2, 2008
“. . .new multisite randomized trials appear to have much potential benefit to advance our understanding about program efficacy and to ensure that all young children receive the quality early education they deserve.” That's a faith with little hope of realization.

The chances that “new multisite randomized trial” will be any more informative than the studies that contribute to the data base are virtually nil. And there is no basis for expecting that such ‘understanding “ will “ensure that all young children receive the quality early education they deserve.”

The matter is at the same time both simpler and more complicated than that. Simpler in the sense that more thought needs to be given both to the defining characteristics of a “program” and to the definition and indicators of aspired accomplishments. Given some clarity in “what we’re talking about and how we’re going to know when we’ve done it, there are methodologies other than “randomized trials” that are more appropriate to guide the endeavor. More complicated in the sense that legislation and operating practices of public and private preschools are as strongly entrenched as in el-hi. Modifying these requires effort that differs radically from “multisite randomized trials.”

Meanwhile, I’d suggest careful examination of the results coming out of the NCES Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort where “Children, their parents, their child care providers, their teachers, and school administrators provide information on children's cognitive, social, emotional and physical development across multiple settings (e.g., home, child care, school).” That’s currently our best source of “understanding.”
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 Chasing Randomized Trials--The Research to Nowhere by Dick Schutz on December 2, 2008
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