Building Organizational Capacity to use Causal Research to Drive Continuous Improvement
EII builds the capacity for education stakeholders in Colorado and beyond to rigorously evaluate their programs as part of the continuous improvement processes through training, technical assistance, and evaluation support. The gold standard of causal evaluation is the randomized control trial, or RCT. Although RCTs have been used for decades to advance human understanding in the medical profession, it is quite new—though equally important—in the field of education. Just as when RCTs began in medicine, there are very real ethical and political barriers to using RCTs in schools. However, these concerns can and must be thoughtfully managed to move society’s understanding forward about what works in education. EII provides hands-on support for schools as they bump against these barriers in their efforts to improve student outcomes while maximizing the return on investment for taxpayers.
Building capacity through the Certificate in Causal Policy Research
The 9-credit online certificate program in Causal Policy Research currently under development will provide administrators and others with the information and skills necessary to manage high quality evaluations of their programs and policies. Through a series of 1- and 2-credit online courses, participants will deduce appropriate lessons from existing applied education research to inform practice in their local context; identify key design elements of a low-cost, rigorous causal evaluation; interpret findings and match communication strategies to the appropriate audiences; apply local evaluation findings to inform continuous learning and strategic investments. Assignments will connect the course material with students’ particular needs and settings as much as possible.
Building capacity through the Evaluating What Works technical assistance program
The Evaluating What Works program conducts outreach to education leaders about the meaning and value of rigorous program evaluation. The program also provides technical assistance for leaders negotiating the integration of rigorous program evaluation into their continuous improvement processes. For example, district leaders might brainstorm with EII staff about specific potential evaluation topics, rigorous methodological designs that ensure findings reflect cause rather than correlation, and how to bring reluctant stakeholders on board.
Building capacity through Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships
EII also partners with school districts to implement rigorous, low-cost program evaluations that are complex enough to require more involved expert assistance. While the Evaluating What Works program helps districts get started on the path to rigorous causal evaluation, a researcher- practitioner partnership potentially provides active assistance from start to finish. The hope is that such partnerships build the capacity of districts to conduct future evaluations independently or with minimal expert assistance. Researcher-practitioner partnerships are currently funded by federal and private foundation dollars, but ideally the costs of rigorous program evaluations--with or without support from higher education partners--will ultimately be incorporated into district regular operating budgets.