Distributed November 18, 2002
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Kristen Cole

Brown researcher makes case for scientifically based education studies

On Dec. 11, 2002, John H. Tyler, assistant professor of education, public policy and economics, will address policy-makers about supporting education research that is designed in the same way as medical research – controlled, randomized studies – and about the potential of research designs that approximate this “gold standard.”

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University researcher John H. Tyler believes the field of education needs the same controlled, randomized studies that serve as the “gold standard” of medical research. He will make the case for scientifically based education research at a forum of the nation’s policy-makers Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2002, at 11 a.m. in the Jefferson Congressional Reading Room of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Tyler, assistant professor of education, public policy and economics, conducts research on the economics of education, including the employment outcomes of high school dropouts who have achieved the General Education Development (GED) credential and those who have not.

“Controlled randomized studies are the recognized gold standard for understanding what social programs do and do not work, and many are beginning to agree that we need more such studies in education,” said Tyler, who cited as an example the Tennessee STAR Experiment, a randomized study of the effects that smaller classes have on student achievement.

“At the same time,” Tyler added, “there are sometimes alternative and potentially powerful ways to approximate what the gold standard would give us when we don’t have a randomized field trial, and this is an area that is of particular interest to me.”

Tyler has used “natural experiments” in his research to simulate what would happen if individuals were randomly assigned to a program, as is often the case in medical research. Natural experiments arise for reasons such as policy differences in particular programs across states. GED passing standards, for example, varied by state until recently. One of Tyler’s studies used that variance to examine the labor market outcomes of a national sample of young dropouts who achieved the same scores on the GED but who did or did not pass the exams and receive their credential depending on their state of residence.

Tyler joined Brown in 1998 after receiving his doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he concentrated in the economics of education. His recently published papers include “Using State Child Labor Laws To Identify the Effect of High School Work on Student Achievement,” forthcoming in the Journal of Labor Economics, and “How Important Are the Cognitive Skills of Teenagers in Predicting Subsequent Earnings?” in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. He also teaches an undergraduate course on evaluating the impact of social programs.

Tyler was invited to speak to members of Congress, U.S. Department of Education staff, and other education leaders by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), recently renamed the Institute of Educational Sciences. The name change was recently signed into law by President Bush to reflect the intent of the President and Congress to advance the field of education research, making it more rigorous in support of evidence-based education, according to the agency’s Web site.