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Session Summary: Low-Cost Randomized Controlled Trials

November 10, 2012 11:24 AM

The Thursday morning session Low-Cost Randomized Controlled Trials had four panelists: Jon Baron from the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, Paul Decker from Mathematica Policy Research, Roland Fryer from Harvard University, and Ricky Takai from Abt Associates. The session focused on the lessons learned from low-cost evaluations and the costs and benefits of investing in evaluation with reduced access to public resources.

Some of the knowledge shared during the well-attended presentation included:

  • When working with multiple sites, learn if the processes and procedures practiced at each site are different. If so, this can lead to complications that can increase the cost of conducting an evaluation significantly.
  • Pulling data can be difficult and may require negotiation and agreements to be put into place.
  • Costs are highly dependent on choices made during the design phase.
  • While knowledge is a public good, there may be little incentive for knowledge sharing.

Ricky Takai, who has experience on the funder's end when it comes to evaluations provided a unique perspective for those in attendance. He touched upon the use of administrative data and its potential in the field of education. Drawing on his funder's experience, Takai noted that in the event that an evaluation finds that a program failed or had no significant result, he cautioned attendees to be ready to explain why as funders are interested in lessons that can improve their grant work going forward.

In conclusion, this session fostered a unique discussion between the panelists and produced several thoughtful questions from the audience.

Contributed by Sophia Guevara, Wayne State University


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