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An article of faith among development economists is that “evidence-based policy” holds the promise of faster progress. Barbara Bruns set out to find a rigorously evaluated pilot whose evidence had led to a program at scale. It wasn’t easy.
Last summer, the Liberian government delegated management of 93 public elementary schools to eight different private contractors. Given the intense controversy around the program, the government—with some encouragement from our colleagues at Ark Education Partnership Group, who helped manage the program—agreed to randomize the allocation of schools during the pilot, and the three of us partnered with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to evaluate its impacts.
We respond to critics of our evaluation of Liberia’s “partnership” school program, distinguishing legitimate concerns about the charter-style program itself—which can be turned into testable hypotheses—from methodological limitations to what an impact evaluation can show.