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A Conceptual Framework for Studying the Sources of Variation in Program Effects

June 26, 2013

Evaluations of public programs in many fields reveal that (1) different types of programs (or different versions of the same program) vary in their effectiveness, (2) a program that is effective for one group of people might not be effective for other groups of people, and (3) a program that is effective in one set of circumstances may not be effective in other circumstances. This paper presents a conceptual framework for research on such variation in program effects and the sources of this variation. The framework is intended to help researchers -- both those who focus mainly on studying program implementation and those who focus mainly on estimating program effects -- see how their respective pieces fit together in a way that helps to identify factors that explain variation in program effects and thereby support more systematic data collection on these factors. The ultimate goal of the framework is to enable researchers to offer better guidance to policymakers and program operators on the conditions and practices that are associated with larger and more positive effects.

Learning From NCLB: School Responses to Accountability Pressure and Student Subgroup Performance

September 1, 2012

Much has been written in the last decade about the spotlight that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) shines on schoolperformance. Proponents and opponents alike are quick to discuss the law's rigid definitions of school performance -- exemplified by the classification of schools as making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or not making AYP based largely on annual tests in reading and mathematics, disaggregating school performance by student subgroups, and requiring that all schools reach 100% proficiency. Yet for all its rigidity, the law has offered schools little guidance on how to make use of the performance data that the new systems provide or how to design improvement efforts. As policymakers discuss ways to change NCLB or design new federal education policies targeted at improving academic achievement, we present new research findings that can help to inform those discussions. In this CPRE Policy Brief, we examine the extent to which the assumptions in the law manifest themselves in the actions that school leaders take. This brief asks and answers the question: How do school leaders -- administrators and teachers -- respond to the results of state assessment systems and the pressure of performance-based accountability? And do those responses seem to matter to achievement outcomes?

More Guidance, Better Results? Three-Year Effects of an Enhanced Student Services Program at Two Community Colleges

August 21, 2009

In a program at Lorain County Community College and Owens Community College in Ohio, low-income students received enhanced counseling and advising services and were eligible to receive a modest stipend for two semesters. The program improved academic outcomes during the second semester and continued to have a positive effect on registration rates in the semester that followed, but it did not have any meaningful effects on academic outcomes in subsequent semesters.