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Do Typical RCTs of Education Interventions Have Sufficient Statistical Power for Linking Impacts on Teacher Practice and Student Achievement Outcomes?

Abstract

"For RCTs of education interventions, it is often of interest to estimate associations between student and mediating teacher practice outcomes, to examine the extent to which the study's conceptual model is supported by the data, and to identify specific mediators that are most associated with student learning. This paper develops statistical power formulas for such exploratory analyses under clustered school-based RCTs using ordinary least squares (OLS) and instrumental variable (IV) estimators, and uses these formulas to conduct a simulated power analysis. The power analysis finds that for currently available mediators, the OLS approach will yield precise estimates of associations between teacher practice measures and student test score gains only if the sample contains about 150 to 200 study schools. The IV approach, which can adjust for potential omitted variable and simultaneity biases, has very little statistical power for mediator analyses. For typical RCT evaluations, these results may have design implications for the scope of the data collection effort for obtaining costly teacher practice mediators."

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