Why RCTs? Part 6

How helpful is that Head Start?

lady_bird_johnson_visiting_a_classroom_for_project_head_start_1966

Lady Bird Johnson Visiting a Classroom for Project Head Start, 1966

Education reform is tricky no matter the level or issue targeted. But one area of reform subject to fairly constant momentum is Head Start, especially under the Obama Administration. This program, established in 1965, addresses some of the early developmental and school readiness gaps for low-income children, from birth to age five. The million-dollar question (for a many million-dollar program) is: does it work?

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Reimagining Reversals

Beyond the extraordinary “Why RCTs?” examples

If you’ve been following our “Why RCTs?” series, you’ve read about some drastic examples across several fields of study- many in the medical field- where RCTs have turned common knowledge and practices upside down. These examples are meant to be shocking; they show us the very real and serious implications that can follow from not testing interventions at all or with non-randomized interventions. The accounts I’ve highlighted in the series illustrate several things:

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The Rise of Experimental Methods in the Law

Greetings from Indianapolis and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) annual conference! The proceedings have gathered many of the best minds and providers in the legal services field. There is real momentum for collecting data, making use of promising technologies, and implementing evidence-based practices. All great news for the A2J Lab.

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Who shall receive legal services when not all can?

Triage and Justice for All, Pt. 2

As Erika discussed in a previous blog post, triage is integral to the delivery of legal services, and yet there is no research that demonstrates how to triage well in law.  Triage is always important (because resources are always finite).  But it is absolutely critical when resources are scare and stakes are high.  Decades ago, James F. Childress, in the provocatively titled “Who shall live when not all can live,” laid out the moral and logical arguments for different conceptualizations of triage.

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Why RCTs? Part 5 continued

Learning and Changing in Response to RCTs… Challenges Remain

Mastectomies have become more and more openly discussed over the past decade, as celebrities have spoken about their experiences and more women are screened for breast cancer. During their lifetimes, 12% of women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer, and the rate of women choosing mastectomies after a positive diagnosis rose from 2% in 1998 to 11% in 2011. Recently the number of women who have opted for double mastectomies has increased despite recent research showing that the procedure does not improve one’s chances of survival or quality of life.

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Making A2J an Evidence-Based Endeavor

Implications of Inconvenient Truths about A2J

justicescalesOn September 27, 2015, the United Nations adopted something called the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals intended to address world poverty.  The Goals apply to all countries.  Goal 16 focuses on, among other things, “providing access to justice for all.”  The White House’s Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (“LAIR”), an effort of the UDSOJ Office for Access to Justice, took a role in coordinating the federal government’s response on Goal 16.  The National Center for Access to Justice, newly moved to Fordham Law School, recently convened a “Civil Society Consultation” to provide public comment to LAIR, and the A2J Lab accepted the National Center’s invitation to contribute a comment.  Our comment focuses on making access to justice an evidence-based endeavor.  What do you think of what we wrote?  Here it is:

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Fear and Loathing over Risk Assessments Part 2

How Should We Think about Racial Disparities?

In a previous post, I considered some of the less convincing critiques of pretrial and sentencing risk assessments that sound in the ecological fallacy. The fallacy argument mistakenly targets risk scores as applying only group inferences to individual case decision-making. The takeaway was straightforward. A comprehensive understanding of actuarial tools must include rigorous counterfactual thinking about a state of the world in which they aren’t available. In this follow-up, I discuss an even more serious claim: that actuarial tools might lead to unjustifiable racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes.

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Why RCTs? Part 4

To Fitbit or Not to Fitbit- Does It Make a Difference?

Wearable Fitness Trackers may make us lose less weight

fitbitimageA blasphemous claim, perhaps, considering how attached we can be to these devices. How could you not lose weight clocking more and more steps each day? Don’t Fitbits and other similar trackers give a point and meaning to our exercise or daily routine? What did we do before this technology, which seems beneficial yet all of sudden life-encompassing? (David Sedaris lamented the death of his Fitbit, “Walking twenty-five miles, or even running up the stairs and back, suddenly seemed pointless, since, without the steps being counted and registered, what use were they?”)

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