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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: U. S. Department of Education

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December 4, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Ice cream doesn’t cause drowning and other warnings about interpreting data

Amid the national debate over how best to improve our nation’s public schools, data  from scientific studies often are used (and misused) to bolster one argument or discredit another – about the effectiveness of charter schools, say, or the value of standardized testing.

But how is an educator, policymaker or parent supposed to sort out credible evidence from the hype?

The science journal Nature recently published a list of 20 concepts that non-scientists should understand about scientific research.

Many of the concepts make good sense for evaluating education research, including this biggie that bears repeating often.

Correlation does not imply causation:  “It is tempting to assume that one pattern causes another,” according to the Nature article.  “However, the correlation might be coincidental, or it might be a result of both patterns being caused by a third factor — a ‘confounding’ or ‘lurking’ variable.”


Comments | Topics: Research, U. S. Department of Education, Washington Post