Experiments in Schools: Methodological Considerations for Conducting Random Assignment in Educational Settings
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
This paper will summarize the methodological pros and cons of using a matched-pair cluster randomization (MPCR) in a school-based trial. Some literature suggests that MPCR is more successful than simple or blocked random assignment at creating equivalent treatment and control groups on both measured and unmeasured characteristics at baseline. The use of MPCR, however, can have implications on attrition for matched school pairs and data collection. Researchers need to weigh the benefits of MPCR against the potential costs.
This paper will provide an in-depth example of using MPCR to study the impact of the Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System (EWIMS). The EWIMS Impact Study is examining the effect of EWIMS on both school and student outcomes. In total, 73 schools were randomly assigned across three states. Schools were matched using Mahalanobis’s metric matching based on key covariates that also determined schools’ eligibility to participate in the study (determined by characteristics such as school size and graduation rate). The matched pairs were subsequently randomly assigned to either the treatment group or a delayed treatment control group.
Using the example of the EWIMS study, the proposed paper will examine the pros and cons of using MPCR in evaluating educational programs and contrast them with traditional blocked random assignment at the school level. We also will discuss the realities of implementing MPCR in the field with schools in terms of design, school recruitment, data collection, attrition, and data analysis.