4.30pm: Showdown on Church Street

Alternate Title: Can Researchers and Practitioners Dance Together, Part 3 I've written a couple blog posts about this topic. See here and here.

Today a bunch of smart folks have volunteered to give feedback on my paper called "Four Randomizations And The Fifth Grade Dance: How High Transaction Costs Block (Much-needed) Randomized Research About Teaching."

We're meeting at Harvard, on Church Street.

(Church Street is dear to me because the Starbucks there was part of a chain of events that ultimately led to this creature. Though not immediately.)

The meeting is basically a wonkish murderer's row of economists and sociologists. (Mom: Murderer's Row was the 1927 New York Yankees Lineup, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig). My group includes:

Dick Murnane

Chris Winship

Josh Angrist

Yikes! Should be fun.

The second part of the meeting is the presentation of exactly the sort of research I think many teachers would want. It's a randomized study by Shaun Doherty and Matt Kraft. The study -- which is in draft form, which means lots may change as the authors get feedback -- was a 3-way collaboration, described below.

Isolating the Effects of Teacher Communication with Parents and Students: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment Matthew A. Kraft, Shaun M. Dougherty Harvard University

This experiment was originally conceived by Michael Goldstein of MATCH Teacher Residency, and is the first research partnership between MATCH Teacher Residency and EdLabs. The methodology was reviewed and approved by the Harvard Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Research.

An accompanying essay - "Overcoming The Transaction Costs Associated With School-Based Randomized Research” - is forthcoming. This study was made possible in part thanks to the financial support of EdLabs and the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences at Harvard University.


We evaluate the combined causal impact of teacher communication with both parents and students by conducting a randomized field experiment. Using daily treatments of a phone call home and a text/written message to students, we explore the extent to which high-frequency targeted communication changed 6th and 9th grade students' behavior and academic engagement during a mandatory summer school program.

We find that on average communication reduced the number of instances teachers had to redirect students’ behavior and attention by 28 percent. In classes where teachers sent daily text/written messages to students, the increased communication reduced redirections by 52 percent. We also find that teacher-family communication reduced the odds that a student was absent from school by 56 percent.

Drawing upon surveys and interviews with participating teachers and students, we identify three primary mechanisms through which these changes occurred: improved teacher-student relationships, expanded parental involvement, and increased student motivation.