Is anything you hear about education true? Ideology, interest groups, and the replication crisis in education research

Mon, Oct 21, 2019, 12:00 pm

Abstract: Education aspires to be a science, yet education researchers don't agree on much of anything. Are private schools better than public schools? Is segregation getting better or worse? Do smaller classes raise achievement? Do poor children fall behind over summer vacation? On these and many other questions, the evidence is "mixed," and you can find an expert to argue either side. With so many brilliant scholars studying education, with bigger and bigger data and more and more sophisticated methods, why doesn't education research provide clearer, more consistent guidance regarding what's happening in the nation's schools and how they can improve? The crisis in education research goes beyond data, beyond methods, down to the very questions that we ask—questions that we cannot expect to have consistent and replicable answers. I'll discuss the ideological origins of many questions about education, and highlight ways to ask less ideological, more scientific questions and put education research in a better position to make progress.

About: Paul von Hippel is an associate professor of public policy, sociology, statistics and data science at the University of Texas in Austin, best known for his work on summer learning, summer weight gain, research design, and missing data. He works on evidence-based policy, education and inequality, and the obesity epidemic. He has won four best-article awards for his work on education, obesity, and methodology as well as the 2019 Leo Goodman Award for "contributions to sociological a scholar who is no more than 15 years past the date of the PhD." Originally trained in music, before his academic career, he worked as a church music director and a data scientist, using predictive analytics to help banks prevent fraud.