Fatih Unlu

Photo of Fatih Unlu
Senior Economist
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in economics, Princeton University; M.A. in economics, Princeton University; B.S. in electrical engineering, Bilkent University

Media Resources

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Fatih Unlu is a senior economist at the RAND Corporation. He has fifteen years of experience with designing and conducting rigorous evaluations of education programs and interventions. He has substantial expertise with the randomized control trials and rigorous quasi-experimental research designs; management of data collection, cleaning, and analysis tasks; and preparation of reports for research sponsors and broader audiences. His project portfolio covers the K-16 education spectrum including evaluations of early college high schools, dual enrollment pathways, a mentoring intervention that aimed to improve student persistence in college, a coaching program that supports high school seniors in their transition to postsecondary institutions, alternative principal and teacher preparation programs, the Federal Reading First program, and extended learning time initiatives enacted in New York City and Massachusetts.  

Unlu serves as the research quality assurance manager for RAND’s Education and Labor Division, a role that entails coordinating the technical peer-reviews of the division’s research products and making a determination as to whether a given product meets rigorous research standards. In addition, Unlu has presented and written on a wide array of research methodology topics including assessing and improving the generalizability of impact estimates obtained with non-probability samples, conducting design replication studies to identify best practices for quasi-experimental designs, utilizing cross-site variation in experimental studies to estimate effects of mediators, and generating design parameters with existing datasets to guide designs of future evaluations. He is a co-editor of Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. Unlu earned his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

Previous Positions

Principal Scientist, Abt Associates

Selected Publications

Zhang, Q., Spybrook, J., and Unlu, F., "Examining Design and Statistical Power for Planning Cluster Randomized Trials Aimed at Improving Student Science Achievement and Science Teacher Outcomes.," AERA Open, Forthcoming.

Edmunds, J.A., Unlu, F., Furey, J., Glennie, E., & Arshavsky, N., "What happens when you combine high school and college? The impact of the early college model on postsecondary performance and completion.," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 2020, 2020

Clements, D. H., Sarama, J., Layzer, C., Unlu, F., Germeroth, C., and Fesler, L., "Effects on Executive Function and Mathematics Learning of an Early Mathematics Curriculum Synthesized with Scaffolded Play Designed to Promote Self-Regulation Versus the Mathematics Curriculum Alone.," Journal of Research in Mathematics Education, 2020., 2020

Edmunds, J. A., Unlu, F., Glennie, E., Bernstein, L., Fesler, L., Furey, J., & Arshavsky, N. , "Smoothing the transition to postsecondary education: The impact of the early college model.," Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2017, 2017

Unlu, F., Bozzi, L., Layzer, C., Smith, A., Price, C., and Hurtig, R. "Linking Implementation Fidelity to Outcomes in an RCT.," in G. Roberts (Ed.), S. Vaughn (Ed.), N. Beretvas (Ed.), and V. Wong (Ed.), Treatment Fidelity in Studies of Educational Intervention., Abingdon: Rutledge., 2017

Porter, K., Reardon, S. F., Unlu, F., Bloom, H. S., and Robinson-Cimpian, J.P. , "Estimating Causal Effects of Education Interventions Using a Two-Rating Regression Discontinuity Design: Lessons from a Simulation Study and an Application. ," Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2017.

Unlu, F. "Civic Engagement and Education," in Brewer, D.J. & Picus, L.O. ed. , Encyclopedia of Education Economics and Finance, SAGE, 2014

Reardon, S.F., Unlu, F., Zhu, P., & Bloom, H. , "Bias and Bias Correction in Multi-Site Instrumental Variables Analysis of Heterogeneous Mediator Effects," Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 2014.


  • Back view of large group of students paying attention on a class at lecture hall, photo by skynesher/Getty Images

    Is It Time to Rethink the Separation Between the High School and Postsecondary Systems?

    We do not yet know how long or deep this economic downturn will be, or how the pandemic will affect the way we work and learn. But just as the post-coronavirus workplace is surely being re-envisioned, this crisis should motivate us to reconsider the structure of our educational system. Early college is a model that can help inform these discussions.

    Apr 16, 2020 Brookings Institution's Brown Center Chalkboard

  • High school and college students walking together, photo by Steve Debenport/Getty Images

    Dual Enrollment for High Schoolers Can Expand Access to College—with Some Caveats

    Targeted federal investments in high school and college dual enrollment programs can boost postsecondary access for students currently underrepresented in postsecondary education. But thoughtful implementation could be key to ensuring those students are successful in college.

    Jun 6, 2019 The RAND Blog