The Center for Evaluation
After an examination of research literature showed that evaluations of many educational interventions were nearly useless because they provided little reliable information about whether programs worked, the Academy created The Center for Evaluation to apply meta-analysis to the problem. Researchers extracted information from experimental data from multiple sources to analyze studies on topics such as optimum class size and grouping students according to skill levels.
Under the direction of statistician Frederick Mosteller (Harvard University), the Center for Evaluation used meta-analysis — a technique which extracts information from experimental data from multiple sources — to conduct research in the area of social policy, particularly educational interventions.
Initially developed under the Academy’s Initiatives for Children, the Center was created after an examination of research literature showed that evaluations of many educational interventions were nearly useless because they provided little reliable information about whether programs worked. Enormous resources were committed to new educational policies without any attempt to test the effectiveness of the new approaches. To address this problem, Mosteller and his fellow researchers studied the methodologies underlying the assessment of new educational policies, and examined whether these policies were supported by adequate data and information. The Center’s work encouraged the use of randomized controlled trials to evaluate educational practices and innovations.
The Center analyzed studies on optimum class size and on grouping students according to skill levels, among other topics. The Center’s application of the meta-analysis technique to a study of class size in Tennessee helped prompt President Clinton's call in 1998 for the federal government to help school districts hire 100,000 new teachers to pare down average class sizes in the earliest grades.
- "A Rare Design: The Role of Field Trials in Evaluating School Practices," by Bill Nave, Ed Miech and Frederick Mosteller, in Evaluation Models: Viewpoints on Educational and Human Services Evaluation, Second Edition, edited by Daniel L. Stufflebeam, George F. Madaus, and Thomas Kellaghan, Kluwer Academic Press, 2000.
- "Mediators and Moderators in the Evaluation of Children’s Programs: Current Practice and Agenda for Improvements," by Anthony J. Petrosino, Evaluation Review, vol. 24, no. 1, February 2000.
- "The Case for Smaller Classes and for Evaluating What Works in the Schoolroom", by Frederick Mosteller, Harvard Magazine, vol. 101, no. 5, May-June 1999.
- “How Does Class Size Relate to Achievement in Schools?” by Frederick Mosteller, in Earning and Learning: How Schools Matter, edited by Susan E. Mayer and Paul E. Peterson, Brookings Institution Press and Russell Sage Foundation, 1999.
- “Sustained Inquiry in Education: Lessons from Ability Grouping and Class Size,” by Frederick Mosteller, Richard J. Light and Jason A. Sachs, Harvard Educational Review, vol. 66, no. 4, 1996.