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Proof that Education is Changing Lives

Larry Hedges Yidan Prize Laureate

As a child, the idea of attending university was something that didn’t cross Larry Hedges’ mind. Growing up in rural California in farm country in a relatively poor family, the only exposure he had to university was through his mother, who worked on the campus of California State University Fresno as a dishwasher in the dorms. The family didn’t know anyone that had attended university, and it was difficult for him to picture himself in that world. Education would end up changing his life.

In high school, Larry was recognized as a star in mathematics and encouraged to pursue a university education. Luckily, the state of California had a program for just these situations, and Larry was awarded a Regents Scholarship to attend the University of California, San Diego. He continued to excel at mathematics and had the opportunity to pursue an advanced degree in mathematics. Instead, he chose to specialize in statistics.

It was Larry’s interest in education that ultimately influenced his decision to attend Stanford University and pursue his Masters in Statistics. At the time, the world of education research was not well-respected because it lacked standards that could be applied across all research efforts. There were lots of research studies out there but as Larry put it, “They didn’t add up to anything. Part of the reason they didn’t add up to anything was that the ways in which researchers were trying to take stock of and synthesize the research that had been done was problematic in various ways.”

Combining Data Led to New Discoveries

Larry began his career working on methods to make sense of the diverse and contradictory research in education. His expertise in statistics, research, and education enabled him to create a methodology to help better prove the outcomes of disparate research studies through an approach termed meta-analysis. What seems like such a common-sense approach, the examination of data from several independent studies of the same subject, to determine overall trends, was unheard of previously—and truly changed the way education research, and research in general, are conducted.

Larry’s work helped to change the trajectory of education research conducted around the world. According to Larry, “Knowledge now is more cumulative—but it has also exposed things we don’t know and the challenge of doing better research to answer the questions we need to answer to make education fulfill its promise of changing lives all over the world, not just for a few of us but for every student. Meta-analysis is helping to improve the quality and kinds of research being done.”

It is Larry’s work in meta-analysis that has given rise to evidence-based education policy through better use of research. His work in educational policy allows policymakers, educators and the public to see the evidence for “what works” in the field of education and makes it possible to take a scientific approach to improving education for future generations. Today, Larry is Chairman of the Department of Statistics at Northwestern University, and is an elected member of the National Academy of Education, among many other well-earned recognitions.

Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate 2018

On December 9, 2018 in Hong Kong, Professor Larry Hedges was awarded the Yidan Prize for Education Research. Founded by Dr. Charles Chen Yidan in 2016, the Yidan Prize recognizes individuals whose work makes a profound contribution to education research with the aim of creating a better world through education. Through a series of initiatives, the Yidan Prize serves to establish a platform that allows the global community to engage in conversations around education and to play a role in education philanthropy. Each Yidan Prize laureate receives a gold medal and roughly $3.9 million in award funds. Professor Hedges plans to continue helping to improve the quality and kind of education research that’s being done, supporting its distribution and use to policymakers, education personnel, and parents with the help of the Yidan Prize.

Professor Larry Hedges is just one example of how the power of education can truly change the trajectory of one’s life.

For more information on the Yidan Prize, please visit https://yidanprize.org/