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Encouraging Low- and Moderate-Income Tax Filers to Save

April 16, 2014 Comments off

Encouraging Low- and Moderate-Income Tax Filers to Save
Source: MDRC

SaveUSA, a voluntary program launched in 2011 in four cities (New York City, Tulsa, San Antonio, and Newark), encourages low- and moderate-income individuals to set aside money from their tax refund for savings. Tax filers at participating Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites can directly deposit all or a portion of their tax refund into a special savings account, set up by a bank or credit union, and pledge to save between $200 and $1,000 of their deposit for about a year. Money can be withdrawn from SaveUSA accounts at any time and for any purpose, but only those who maintain their initially pledged savings amount throughout a full year receive a 50 percent match on that amount. Account holders, irrespective of match receipt, can deposit tax refund dollars in subsequent years and become eligible to receive additional savings matches on their new tax refund deposits.

This report presents findings on SaveUSA’s implementation in all four cities and its early effects on savings and other financial outcomes in two cities: New York City and Tulsa. In these latter cities, a randomly selected half of the tax filers who were interested in SaveUSA in 2011 could open accounts (the “SaveUSA group”), but the other half could not (the control group). The report compares the savings and other financial behaviors of the two groups over time to estimate SaveUSA’s effects. The findings thus suggest the effects that savings policies structured similarly to SaveUSA might have.

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Beyond the GED: Promising Models for Moving High School Dropouts to College

February 7, 2014 Comments off

Beyond the GED: Promising Models for Moving High School Dropouts to College
Source: MDRC

Nearly 39 million adults in the United States do not have a high school diploma. Roughly two-thirds of them eventually obtain a high school equivalency credential like the General Educational Development (GED) certificate, with the hope of then obtaining a job. But in today’s changing economy, possessing a GED certificate ― while helpful for finding employment ― often isn’t enough, and many GED recipients will continue to struggle in the labor market. Postsecondary education is also helpful to improve their employment prospects, but fewer than 5 percent of GED recipients go on to enroll in college or other adult education programs.

Emphasizing results from quasi-experimental and experimental research, this literature review identifies the most promising approaches for increasing dropouts’ rate of attaining a GED certificate or other high school credential and making a successful transition to college. The report divides these recent interventions into three primary types of adult education reforms: (1) efforts to increase the rigor of adult education instruction and the standards for achieving a credential; (2) GED-to-college “bridge” programs, which integrate academic preparation with increased supports for students’ transition to college; and (3) interventions that allow students to enroll in college while studying to earn a high school credential.

The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8

November 13, 2013 Comments off

The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8
Source: MDRC

This report summarizes research conducted primarily over the past 10 years on how families’ involvement in children’s learning and development through activities at home and at school affects the literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills of children ages 3 to 8. A total of 95 studies of family involvement are reviewed. These include both descriptive, nonintervention studies of the actions families take at home and at school and intervention studies of practices that guide families to conduct activities that strengthen young children’s literacy and math learning.

Reconnecting Disconnected Young Adults

October 29, 2013 Comments off

Reconnecting Disconnected Young Adults
Source: MDRC

In the United States, 1.6 million young people between 18 and 24 years old are out of school (lacking either a high school degree or General Educational Development certificate) and out of work. These “disconnected” young people face significant barriers to economic opportunity and distressingly high odds of becoming involved with the criminal justice system.

Project Rise, a program currently operating as part of New York City’s Social Innovation Fund initiative, seeks to reconnect these young people with education, work, and social support as a pathway to a brighter future. A distinctive feature of Project Rise is that participants are offered paid internships if they maintain satisfactory attendance in the program’s education component.

This policy brief provides early lessons from Project Rise, including that:

  • Enrolling participants in a series of groups (or cohorts) can promote bonding among them through a combination of peer support and peer pressure.
  • Surprisingly, participants appear to value the program’s education component more than they value the offer of a part-time paid internship.
  • Given the challenges of engaging disconnected young people for the full duration of the program, it is important to respond flexibly to participants’ barriers and strengths.

These lessons and others that will emerge from the Project Rise implementation research can inform federal, state, and local policies for disconnected young people.

Promoting College Match for Low-Income Students

October 2, 2013 Comments off

Promoting College Match for Low-Income Students
Source: MDRC

Most high school reform efforts understandably fo­cus on boosting the success of low-income students who are underachieving academi­cally, aiming to help them graduate ready for the rigors of college. But in every school dis­trict where students struggle, there are aca­demically capable low-income and minority students who do graduate from high school and are well prepared for college. Yet each year, many of these students choose to at­tend nonselective four-year colleges where graduation rates are distressingly low. Oth­ers enroll at two-year colleges, where degree completion and transfer rates are even low­er. Many more do not attend college at all.

This phenomenon — called “undermatching” — was first examined by Melissa Roderick and her colleagues at the Consortium on Chicago School Research. Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson confirmed that students are more likely to graduate college when they at­tend the most academically demanding insti­tution that will admit them. More recently, a study by Caroline Hoxby and her colleagues gained popular attention for demonstrating that it was possible to increase the rate at which very high-achieving, low-income stu­dents enrolled in the most selective colleges and universities by providing them with tai­lored information about opportunities there.

In 2010, MDRC and its partners pilot-tested an innovative advising program, College Match, in three Chicago public high schools. It took on the undermatch challenge directly by delivering crucial information to help a broad range of academically qualified stu­dents and their parents make thoughtful decisions about college enrollment. College Match has now expanded to New York City. This practitioner brief presents practical lessons from the College Match Program in Chicago. It offers five strategies that show promise, that could be widely applicable, that counselors and advisers can integrate into their existing college guidance activi­ties, and that can be implemented in college advising settings in and out of schools.

School-Based Mentoring Programs

August 16, 2013 Comments off

School-Based Mentoring Programs
Source: MDRC

Previous research suggests that school-based mentoring programs like those offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) yield small but statistically significant improvements in the academic performance of mentored students and in their beliefs in their own scholastic efficacy. The present study uses data from a randomized control trial involving over 1,000 students from 71 schools across the country to investigate further the academic benefits of school-based mentoring, and to enrich the field’s understanding of how schools can use volunteers to support students. We employ instrumental variables and other approaches to provide insight into why the BBBSA school-based mentoring program is effective, finding that the relationship between mentor and protégé appears to play a key role. The evidence suggests that developing a close relationship with a mentor led to better academic outcomes for students; in contrast, students who were mentored but did not experience a close relationship showed no improvement in academic outcomes relative to the control group. This pattern holds for mentoring relationships of various durations. In addition, there is no evidence that mentoring programs with an academic focus produced better academic outcomes than relationship-only programs. Findings do reveal, however, that programs structured with weekly meetings and with opportunities for pairs to interact outside of a large-group setting were more likely to generate close mentor-protégé relationships. Beyond reporting new empirical findings, this paper contributes a theoretical structure with which to assess the results of randomized evaluations of mentoring programs.

A Conceptual Framework for Studying the Sources of Variation in Program Effects

July 12, 2013 Comments off

A Conceptual Framework for Studying the Sources of Variation in Program Effects
Source: MDRC

Evaluations of public programs in many fields reveal that (1) different types of programs (or different versions of the same program) vary in their effectiveness, (2) a program that is effective for one group of people might not be effective for other groups of people, and (3) a program that is effective in one set of circumstances may not be effective in other circumstances. This paper presents a conceptual framework for research on such variation in program effects and the sources of this variation. The framework is intended to help researchers — both those who focus mainly on studying program implementation and those who focus mainly on estimating program effects — see how their respective pieces fit together in a way that helps to identify factors that explain variation in program effects and thereby support more systematic data collection on these factors. The ultimate goal of the framework is to enable researchers to offer better guidance to policymakers and program operators on the conditions and practices that are associated with larger and more positive effects.

Make Me a Match: Helping Low-Income and First-Generation Students Make Good College Choices

June 17, 2013 Comments off

Make Me a Match: Helping Low-Income and First-Generation Students Make Good College Choices

Source: MDRC

It has become a truism and a rare example of political consensus: Educators, researchers, and policymakers across the political spectrum agree that America must send more of its young people to college and must find ways to help them graduate. Despite this broad consensus, it has been difficult to design and implement effective strategies for dramatically increasing college enrollment and graduation.

Students fall through the cracks at each step along the road to a college degree. Many students — particularly low-income students and students of color — attend high schools that do not recognize their potential or engage them academically, and many of them drop out. Of those who do graduate, many confront financial or personal challenges that prevent them from even considering college.

Of those who do enroll in college, many are academically unprepared or too financially fragile to complete a degree and may attend institutions that offer them little support. Only 68 percent of high school graduates immediately enroll in college, and only 57 percent of students at four-year institutions earn a degree in six years. At many public four-year universities, the graduation rates are considerably lower.

In Chicago, an intervention now under way — the College Match Program — takes an innovative approach to solving the problem of low college graduation rates. Developed by MDRC in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools, College Match targets a population that has been overlooked by many other college success initiatives: moderately to high-achieving students who are prepared for college but need advice and support to choose college wisely. By placing young adult advisers in high schools to help these students find colleges that meet their academic, social, and personal needs, the program tests the theory that students who enroll in a "match" college are most likely to thrive, persist, and graduate.

This policy brief describes the intervention and offers encouraging early findings from a pilot in three Chicago high schools. It concludes with a discussion of issues related to further expansion, modification, and testing of the model.

“Looking Forward” Memos Provide Recommendations for Policy and Research

February 7, 2013 Comments off

“Looking Forward” Memos Provide Recommendations for Policy and Research

Source: MDRC

At a time when limited government resources demand that the nation make the most of investments in social and education programs, policymakers increasingly need to make decisions on the basis of reliable evidence. MDRC has developed two-page memos for policymakers that suggest ways to make progress on critical issues. The first seven are below. Additional memos in the “Looking Forward” series will be released in the coming weeks.

Delivering on the Promise of Preschool: Investing in Social and Emotional Development and Early Math Skills

How do we make the most of the promise of preschool, particularly as preschool programs become universal? How do we avoid the “fade out” of early positive effects as children transition to elementary school? This policy memo describes how enhancing children’s social and emotional development and their early math skills may be part of the answer.

Strengthening Low-Income Families: A Research Agenda for Parenting, Relationship, and Fatherhood Programs

Past and ongoing research offers direction for how to strengthen the most basic foundation for early childhood development: family relationships. This policy memo makes the case for building on this accumulating evidence to create new and innovative approaches to support children’s earliest years and the unique role of fathers.

Building Better Programs for Disconnected Youth

Almost 7 million 16- to 24-year-olds are neither working nor in school. This policy memo argues that, while the research evidence on youth programs is mixed, there are some promising findings — and a resurgence in political interest — on which to build.

Developmental Education: A Barrier to a Postsecondary Credential for Millions of Americans

Too many community college students arrive on campus unprepared, get placed into developmental (or remedial) courses, and never complete a credential, graduate, or transfer to a four-year institution. This policy memo calls for bolder action to learn what works to improve developmental education.

Helping Students Pay for College — and Achieve Better Outcomes

America faces a two-pronged problem in higher education: increasing costs and low completion rates. This policy memo describes how offering financial aid that rewards academic progress may help students pay for college and complete their degrees more quickly.

Subsidized Employment: A Strategy for Bad Economic Times and for the Hard-to-Employ

Subsidized employment programs provide jobs to people who cannot find employment in the regular labor market and use public funds to pay all or some of their wages. This policy memo describes how these programs may be part of the answer for the long-term unemployed in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Building Knowledge About Successful Prisoner Reentry Strategies

The 700,000 incarcerated prisoners released each year face considerable obstacles to successfully reintegrating into their communities, and many return to prison. While state and federal agencies have mounted ambitious prisoner reentry initiatives, this policy memo explains that there is still much to learn about what works.

What Can a Multifaceted Program Do for Community College Students?

September 4, 2012 Comments off

What Can a Multifaceted Program Do for Community College Students?

Source: MDRC

In recent years, there has been unprecedented national focus on the importance of increasing the stubbornly low graduation rates of community college students. Most reforms that have been tried are short-term and address one or only a few barriers to student success. The City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), launched in 2007 with funding from Mayor Bloomberg’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), is an uncommonly multifaceted and long-term program designed to help community college students graduate.

ASAP requires students to attend college full time and provides a rich array of supports and incentives for up to three years, with a goal of graduating at least 50 percent of students within three years. Unlike many programs, ASAP aims to simultaneously address multiple barriers to student success over many semesters. The program model includes some block-scheduled classes for ASAP students for the first year of the program; an ASAP seminar for at least the first year, which covers such topics as goal-setting and academic planning; comprehensive advisement; tutoring; career services; a tuition waiver that covers any gap between a student’s financial aid and tuition and fees; free MetroCards for use on public transportation; and free use of textbooks.

This report presents very promising early findings from a random assignment study of ASAP at three CUNY community colleges: Borough of Manhattan, Kingsborough, and LaGuardia. For the study, ASAP targets low-income students who need one or two developmental (remedial) courses to build their reading, writing, or math skills. The study compares ASAP with regular services and classes at the colleges.

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental English: Impact Studies at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County

March 18, 2012 Comments off

Learning Communities for Students in Developmental English: Impact Studies at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County
Source: MDRC

Across the United States, community colleges offer millions of students an open-access, low-cost postsecondary education. However, of the students who enroll in community college hoping to earn a credential or transfer to a four-year institution, only about half achieve their goal within six years. For students who enter college needing developmental (remedial) education in reading, writing, or math, this rate is even lower. Learning communities, in which cohorts of students enroll in two or more linked courses together, are often employed to improve these students’ success. In addition to linking courses, learning communities often incorporate other components, such as faculty collaboration, shared assignments and curricula, and connections to student support services.

Merced College in California and The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) each developed learning communities designed to boost the academic success of their developmental English students. These colleges are two of the six in the National Center for Postsecondary Research’s (NCPR) Learning Communities Demonstration, in which random assignment evaluations are being used to determine the impacts of learning communities on student success. At Merced, learning communities linked developmental English courses with a variety of other courses at the developmental and college levels. At CCBC, learning communities linked developmental English with a range of college-level courses and a weekly one-hour Master Learner session designed to support curricular integration and student learning.

+ Executive Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

Leading by Example: A Case Study of Peer Leader Programs at Two Achieving the Dream Colleges

March 7, 2012 Comments off

Leading by Example: A Case Study of Peer Leader Programs at Two Achieving the Dream Colleges
Source: MDRC

This report draws on the experiences of two Massachusetts community colleges that employed academically successful students to serve as peer leaders. The Achieving the Dream initiative supports colleges’ investments in the resources and personnel needed to make desired institution-wide changes. As part of the initiative, Northern Essex Community College has used Supplemental Instruction Leaders, and Bunker Hill Community College has used Peer Mentors in order to strengthen student success and promote institutional improvement efforts.

Both colleges chose to implement peer leader programs in developmental (remedial) and gatekeeper (introductory college-level) courses that have historically been difficult for many students to pass. This report describes recruitment, training, activities, and costs related to developing these peer leader programs as well as how peer leaders worked with students and faculty inside the classroom. Students, peer leaders, faculty, and administrators offered perspectives in focus groups and interviews during the 2010-2011 academic year.

+ Executive Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities Transitional Jobs Program

February 29, 2012 Comments off

More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities Transitional Jobs Program (PDF)
Source: MDRC

This report presents the final results of the evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). CEO is one of four sites in the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project, sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social and education policy research organization, is leading the evaluation, in collabora- tion with the Urban Institute and other partners.

Based in New York City, CEO is a comprehensive employment program for former prisoners — a population confronting many obstacles to finding and maintaining work. CEO provides temporary, paid jobs and other services in an effort to improve participants’ labor market prospects and reduce the odds that they will return to prison. The study uses a rigorous random assignment design: it compares outcomes for individuals assigned to the program group, who were given access to CEO’s jobs and other services, with the outcomes for those assigned to the control group, who were offered basic job search assistance at CEO along with other services in the community.

The three-year evaluation found that CEO substantially increased employment early in the follow-up period but that the effects faded over time. The initial increase in employment was due to the temporary jobs provided by the program. After the first year, employment and earnings were similar for both the program group and the control group.

CEO significantly reduced recidivism, with the most promising impacts occurring among a sub- group of former prisoners who enrolled shortly after release from prison (the group that the program was designed to serve). Among the subgroup that enrolled within three months after release, program group members were less likely than their control group counterparts to be arrested, convicted of a new crime, and reincarcerated. The program’s impacts on these outcomes represent reductions in recidivism of 16 percent to 22 percent. In general, CEO’s impacts were stronger for those who were more disadvantaged or at higher risk of recidivism when they enrolled in the study.

The evaluation includes a benefit-cost analysis, which shows that CEO’s financial benefits out-weighed its costs under a wide range of assumptions. Financial benefits exceeded the costs for taxpayers, victims, and participants. The majority of CEO’s benefits were the result of reduced criminal justice system expenditures.

More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional Jobs Program

February 13, 2012 Comments off

More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional Jobs Program
Source: MDRC

This report presents the final results of the evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). CEO is one of four sites in the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project, sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social and education policy research organization, is leading the evaluation, in collaboration with the Urban Institute and other partners.

Based in New York City, CEO is a comprehensive employment program for former prisoners — a population confronting many obstacles to finding and maintaining work. CEO provides temporary, paid jobs and other services in an effort to improve participants’ labor market prospects and reduce the odds that they will return to prison. The study uses a rigorous random assignment design: it compares outcomes for individuals assigned to the program group, who were given access to CEO’s jobs and other services, with the outcomes for those assigned to the control group, who were offered basic job search assistance at CEO along with other services in the community.

The three-year evaluation found that CEO substantially increased employment early in the follow-up period but that the effects faded over time. The initial increase in employment was due to the temporary jobs provided by the program. After the first year, employment and earnings were similar for both the program group and the control group.

+ Executive Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

Top 10 Most Popular MDRC Publications in 2011

January 8, 2012 Comments off
Source:  MDRC
In 2011, MDRC published nearly 40 publications on programs affecting low-income Americans in all realms of education and social policy: education from preschool to postsecondary, workforce development, family relationships, youth development, welfare programs, early childhood, health and disability, and more. What follows is a list of our top 10 most popular publications released in 2011….

Serving Community College Students on Probation

November 23, 2011 Comments off

Serving Community College Students on Probation
Source: MDRC

Community colleges across the United States face a difficult challenge. On the one hand, they are “open access” institutions, with a mission to serve students from all backgrounds and at varying levels of college readiness. On the other hand, they must uphold high academic standards in order to maintain accreditation and prepare students for employment or transfer to four-year schools. How, then, can community colleges best serve students who want to learn but do not meet minimum academic standards?

Chaffey College, a large community college located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, began to wrestle with this question early in the twenty-first century. Under the auspices of a national demonstration project called Opening Doors, Chaffey developed a program designed to increase probationary students’ chances of succeeding in college. Chaffey’s program included a “College Success” course, taught by a counselor, which provided basic information on study skills and the requirements of college. As part of the course, students were expected to complete five visits to “Success Centers,” where their assignments, linked to the College Success course, covered skills assessment, learning styles, time management, use of resources, and test preparation.

In 2005, MDRC collaborated with Chaffey College to evaluate the one-semester, voluntary Opening Doors program. In 2006, the program was improved to form the two-semester Enhanced Opening Doors program, in which probationary students were told that they were required to take the College Success course. In MDRC’s evaluation of each program, students were randomly assigned either to a program group that had the opportunity to participate in the program or to a control group that received the college’s standard courses and services. This report presents the outcomes for both groups of students in the Enhanced Opening Doors evaluation for four years after they entered the study.

+ Executive Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

Breaking the Low-Pay, No-Pay Cycle: Final Evidence from the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration

October 7, 2011 Comments off

Breaking the Low-Pay, No-Pay Cycle: Final Evidence from the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration
Source: MDRC

This report presents the final results on the implementation, impacts, costs, and economic benefits of the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) programme. ERA’s distinctive combination of post-employment advisory support and financial incentives was designed to help low-income individuals who entered work sustain employment and advance in the labour market. Launched in 2003 in selected Jobcentre Plus offices, ERA targeted three groups: (1) unemployed lone parents receiving Income Support and volunteering for the New Deal for Lone Parents welfare-to-work programme, (2) lone parents working part time and receiving Working Tax Credit, and (3) long-term unemployed people aged 25 or older receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance who were required to participate in the New Deal 25 Plus welfare-to-work programme. The effectiveness of the programme was evaluated using a random assignment research design.

The evaluation found that ERA produced short-term earnings gains for the two lone parent target groups. The early gains resulted from increases in the proportion of participants who worked full time (at least 30 hours per week). However, these effects generally faded after the programme ended, largely because the control group caught up with the ERA group.

More impressive were the results for the long-term unemployed participants (mostly men) in the New Deal 25 Plus target group. For them, ERA produced modest but sustained increases in employment and substantial and sustained increases in earnings. These positive effects emerged after the first year and were still evident at the end of a five-year follow-up period. The earnings gains were accompanied by lasting reductions in benefits receipt. ERA proved cost-effective for this group from the perspectives of the participants themselves, the Government budget, and society as a whole.

+ Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

Unlocking the Gate: What We Know About Improving Developmental Education

September 16, 2011 Comments off

Unlocking the Gate: What We Know About Improving Developmental Education
Source: MDRC

One of the greatest challenges that community colleges face in their efforts to increase graduation rates is improving the success of students in their developmental, or remedial, education programs — the courses that students without adequate academic preparation must take before they can enroll in courses for college credit. Emphasizing results from experimental and quasi-experimental studies, this literature review identifies the most promising approaches for revising the structure, curriculum, or delivery of developmental education and suggests areas for future innovations in developmental education practice and research. This analysis focuses on four different types of interventions for improving students’ progress through remedial education and into college-level courses, including (1) strategies that help students avoid developmental education by shoring up their skills before they enter college; (2) interventions that accelerate students’ progress through developmental education by shortening the timing or content of their courses; (3) programs that provide contextualized basic skills together with occupational or college-content coursework; and (4) programs that enhance the supports for developmental-level learners, such as advising or tutoring.

While research on best practices in developmental education abounds, little rigorous research exists to demonstrate the effects of these reforms on students’ achievement. Programs that show the greatest benefits with relatively rigorous documentation either mainstream developmental students into college-level courses with additional supports, provide modularized or compressed courses to allow remedial students to more quickly complete their developmental work, or offer contextualized remedial education within occupational and vocational programs. These strategies show the most promise for educators and policymakers who must act now, but they should also continue to receive attention from researchers. Many of the strategies have not yet been evaluated using more rigorous and reliable research methods, and/or early promising results have not been replicated in other settings.

This literature review also notes several promising reforms that merit further study: technology-aided approaches, improved alignment between secondary and postsecondary education, and curricular redesign that reconsiders the key skills that academically underprepared students will need in their careers. Finally, it flags two generic issues — placement assessments and faculty support — that will likely need to be addressed for community colleges to see large-scale changes in their developmental-level students’ achievement.

+ Executive Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

Categories: education, K-12, MDRC

Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation

September 12, 2011 Comments off

Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation
Source: MDRC

This study examines the impact of intensive mathematics professional development (PD) on teachers’ knowledge and teaching skills for seventh-grade mathematics in rational number topics, such as fractions, decimals, percent, ratio, and proportion. The intensive PD studied includes over 100 hours of support in the form of summer institutes, seminars, and in-school coaching. Schools in 12 districts participating in the study were randomly assigned to receive the intensive PD activities or only the PD activities normally provided by the district. All seventh-grade teachers teaching at least one regular seventh-grade mathematics class within the treatment schools were offered the intensive PD during the first year of implementation. In six of the districts, the intensive PD was provided to eligible seventh-grade teachers in the study schools for a second year.

Findings after two years of implementation include:

  • The intensive PD was implemented as intended, but teacher turnover limited the average dosage received. On average, the treatment teachers in the second-year impact sample received 68 percent of the full intended dosage. Because some teachers left the study schools and others entered as the study progressed, not all teachers had the opportunity to experience the full dose of PD.
  • There was no evidence that the intensive PD resulted in improved teacher knowledge. There were no significant impacts on teachers, scores on a specially constructed teacher knowledge test or on either of the subscores. On average, about 75 percent of teachers in both the treatment and the control groups correctly answered test items that were of average difficulty for the test instrument.
  • There was no evidence that the intensive PD had led to improvements in student achievement in rational numbers knowledge. Students taught by teachers in the intensive PD group and students taught by teachers in the control group performed similarly on a rational numbers test.

+ Executive Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

Categories: education, K-12, MDRC, teachers

Staying on Track: Early Findings from a Performance-Based Scholarship Program at the University of New Mexico

August 20, 2011 Comments off

Staying on Track: Early Findings from a Performance-Based Scholarship Program at the University of New Mexico
Source: MDRC

Although a growing number of individuals are enrolling in college in response to the increasing payoff to higher education, more than a third of them never finish. College completion rates are especially disappointing for low-income students, in many cases because they tend to enter college underprepared academically but also because they have more difficulty covering the costs of attendance. This report presents early results from a program at the University of New Mexico (UNM) that increases the financial support available to low-income entering students who enroll for a minimum number of credits and maintain a minimum grade point average. The program, called VISTA (Vision Inspired Scholarship Through Academic Achievement), is one of nine scholarship programs being tested across the country as part of the national Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration. The demonstration is testing several types of performance-based scholarships in order to identify promising strategies to increase college persistence and completion among low-income students.

VISTA provides low-income entering freshmen with up to $1,000 in financial aid per semester for four semesters, in addition to any standard financial aid they receive. The funds are paid directly to the student in three installments each semester and are conditional on full-time enrollment and a “C” or better average. VISTA also provides students with enhanced academic advising, requiring them to meet at least twice during the semester with a designated VISTA advisor.

The effects of VISTA are being assessed using a randomized control trial, in which over 1,000 low-income students who entered UNM in the fall of 2008 and the fall of 2009 were assigned at random to either the VISTA group, whose members are eligible for the program, or a control group, whose members are eligible only for standard financial aid and counseling. The evaluation is tracking these students’ college performance for four years — that is, during the two years (four semesters) of the program and for two years after the scholarship ends. Early findings, through one year, indicate that although VISTA had no effects on credits or grades during the first semester, effects did emerge after that point:

  • VISTA encouraged students to attempt and earn more credits. Students in the VISTA group were substantially more likely than those in the control group to attempt 15 or more credits in the second semester, the minimum needed for VISTA. As a result, they were 8.8 percentage points more likely to have earned 30 or more credits by the end of their first year, increasing the likelihood that they would be on track for an on-time graduation.
  • VISTA led to a net increase in financial aid dollars and allowed some students to reduce their reliance on loans. Students in the VISTA group received, on average, $900 more in aid than those in the control group, and were about 6 percentage points less likely to have loans.
  • Although VISTA did not affect overall enrollment rates for the third semester, it did result in students registering for more credits. About 78 percent of students in the study returned to UNM to register for classes in their third semester. Enrollment rates were similar for students in both the VISTA and control groups. However, VISTA students were much more likely to have enrolled for at least 15 credits.

+ Full Report (PDF)

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