This comment from the American Evaluation Association (AEA) was written in response to a US Department of Education proposed priority for evaluating educational programs using scientifically based methods. The paper argues that: randomized control group trials (RCTs) are not the only studies capable of generating understandings of causality; alternative and mixed methods are rigorous and scientific; sound policy decisions benefit from data illustrating not only causality but also conditionality.
"While we agree with the intent of ensuring that federally sponsored programs be "evaluated using scientifically based research . . . to determine the effectiveness of a project intervention," we do not agree that "evaluation methods using an experimental design are best for determining project effectiveness.” We believe that the constraints in the proposed priority would deny use of other needed, proven, and scientifically credible evaluation methods, resulting in fruitless expenditures on some large contracts while leaving other public programs unevaluated entirely."