Originally Published In
International Journal of Educational Methodology
This study was designed to investigate the applicability of the IES/NSF pipeline-of-evidence protocol in ascertaining why two notable educational initiatives spearheaded and financially supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation achieved or not the goal of improved academic outcomes for K-12 public school students. Our interest was not whether there is a sufficient body of high quality research evidence to support the two initiatives but whether the research considered by the Gates Foundation established the likelihood that the initiatives would be successful and worth the decision to dedicate substantial funding, time, and effort required for each versus the many competing programs seeking sponsorship. We found that in the case of Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching, foundational, efficacy, and effectiveness research were absent and the Gates foundation discontinued grant support because the initiative had not achieved the goal of improved high school graduation and college attendance among low-income minority students. In the case of Early College High School, we found empirical evidence was manifest at all but the effectiveness stage of the pipeline and the initiative continued to receive funding. Our findings support the importance of widening the net of methodologies that constitute a framework for elements needed to make predictions of effectiveness for any given intervention before investing in scale-up initiatives and the need for private foundations to be transparent in their decision-making process to enable others to scrutinize the research that informs the design of initiatives.