Lottery-Based Evaluations of Early Education Programs: Identifying Opportunities and Solving Challenges
Christina Weiland (PI) and Susan Dynarski (co-PI), in collaboration with Rebecca Unterman at MDRC, will plan and lead a two-day conference on the design of lottery studies in early education.
Lottery-based assignment systems have been leveraged to estimate the causal impacts of K-12 policies and interventions, including charter schools (Abdulkadiroğlu et al., 2011; Dobbie & Fryer Jr, 2011; Dynarski, Hubbard, Jacob, & Robles, 2019; Unterman, 2017) and small schools of choice (Bloom & Unterman, 2014). These systems are just beginning to be used to study the short and longer-term impacts of public preschool programs (Weiland et al., 2019) and variation in impacts across schools (Unterman & Weiland, 2019). Their use in early education contexts presents unique opportunities given the need for rigorous studies of today’s preschool programs. But there are also unique challenges that are not yet well understood such as identifying the counterfactual, limited early elementary school outcome data, and external validity issues.
In 2021, Weiland, Dynarski, and Unterman will bring together six teams implementing the design in early education contexts and methods experts who have used the design in K-12 contexts for rich discussion of these opportunities, common challenges, and solutions. A key deliverable out of the meeting is a joint-authored guide to lottery-based evaluations in early childhood education. Ultimately, the goal is to set the stage for additional, rigorous evidence on today’s early education programs that can guide policy and practice decisions in early education and close opportunity gaps for young children.