External Validity in U.S. Education Research EconomicsEducationPublic PolicySSMART

Sean Tanner

As methods for internal validity improve, methodological concerns have shifted toward assessing how well the research community can extrapolate from individual studies. Under recent federal granting initiatives, over $1 billion has been awarded to education programs that have been validated by a single randomized or natural experiment. If these experiments have weak external validity, scientific advancement is delayed and federal education funding might be squandered. By analyzing trials clustered within interventions, this research describes how well a single study’s results are predicted by additional studies of the same intervention in addition to analyzing how well study samples match the target populations of interventions. I find that U.S. education trials are conducted on samples of students who are systematically less white and more socioeconomically disadvantaged that the overall student population. Moreover, I find that effect sizes tend to decay in the second and third trials of interventions.

Publications associated with this project:

  • Tanner, Sean. “External Validity in U.S. Education Research.” Working Paper. Open Science Framework, November 1, 2017. https://osf.io/be95h/.