Search EdWorkingPapers

Interpreting Effect Sizes of Education Interventions

Researchers commonly interpret effect sizes by applying benchmarks proposed by Cohen over a half century ago. However, effects that are small by Cohen’s standards are large relative to the impacts of most field-based interventions. These benchmarks also fail to consider important differences in study features, program costs, and scalability. In this paper, I present five broad guidelines for interpreting effect sizes that are applicable across the social sciences. I then propose a more structured schema with new empirical benchmarks for interpreting a specific class of studies: causal research on education interventions with standardized achievement outcomes. Together, these tools provide a practical approach for incorporating study features, cost, and scalability into the process of interpreting the policy importance of effect sizes.

Education Policy, Effect Sizes, Interpretation, Benchmarks, Causal Effects
Education level
Download PDF808.62 KB
Document Object Identifier (DOI)

This EdWorkingPaper is published in:

Kraft, M. (2020). Interpreting Effect Sizes of Education Interventions. Educational Researcher.

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Kraft, Matthew. (). Interpreting Effect Sizes of Education Interventions. (EdWorkingPaper: 19-10). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:

Machine-readable bibliographic record: RIS, BibTeX