Ph.D. Alumnus Tyler Watts (Columbia University Teachers College) is lead author, with co-authors Associate Professor Drew Bailey and Chen Li (NYU), of a new article in the July issue of the Journal of Educational Effectiveness: "Aiming Further: Addressing the Need for High Quality Longitudinal Research in Education."
In educational research, the importance of longer-run follow-ups has been continually identified as a key priority for the field, with policy reports (Martin et al., 2018; McCormick, Hsueh, Weiland, & Bangser, 2017; Phillips et al., 2018), conference keynote addresses [see SREE invited lectures by Duncan (2015) and Singer (2019)], and “future directions” sections of research manuscripts noting the need to conduct evaluations with longitudinal follow-up. In recent years, the field has experienced substantial growth in the use of randomized control trials (RCTs) for the evaluation of educational programs, and at the same time, the wide availability of secondary administrative data sources has made longitudinal follow-up for these RCTs more possible than ever before (Penner & Dodge, 2019). However, despite these important innovations, educational interventions reporting long-run follow-up are still scarce, leaving a critical gap in the evaluation literature. In this commentary, we argue that this gap hampers the field’s progress, stifling our ability to empirically test fundamental theories regarding long-run development, and incentivizing research practices that are counter-productive to our widely-held goals. Below, we offer several options that researchers and funders could pursue to substantially strengthen our understanding of how educational programs influence long-term student outcomes.