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When is Research Good Research?

by Yasmina Vinci
May/June 2013
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/when-is-research-good-research/5021120/

Does Head Start work? Despite decades of research demonstrating that it does, a study released in December 2012 by the Department of Health and Human Services has been loudly proclaimed by opponents of Head Start as proof that the program is a failure. But is that really what this study shows?

Nobel laureate economist and early education champion James Heckman said to NPR in February 2012, "Many people have focused on the recent Head Start evaluation saying there's no effect. I think the Head Start evaluation is an example of the folly of uncritical use of so-called randomized trials." A week later Fareed Zakaria wrote in TIME ­Magazine, "Critics are jumping to conclusions about a very complicated subject without really understanding the study — or the limitations of social-science research."

The findings of the National Head Start Impact Study are more complicated than any one-line answer can express, and Heckman and Zakaria are both right: Without thinking critically about what good research is, we can't under­stand what it says. Below are a few key ­questions we need to ask about all research and about the Impact Study in particular.

Is the Study Designed to Get Clear Answers to the Question Being Asked?

Randomized control trials ...

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