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Posts Tagged ‘Program Evaluations’

The organization Pre-K Now has a blog called Inside Pre-K that shares the stories and experiences of actual pre-K teachers. The advocacy organization already does very good policy work and an excellent daily newsclipping email, and the Inside Pre-K is a very creative contribution to the advocacy world. They should be congratulated on recognizing the saturation in the policy-oriented advocacy world and choosing instead to fill an important gap with personal stories and experiences.

I tell you all that because, despite my praise of their experiential niche, I’m linking to them today because of a very good policy post. J.M. Holland, a Head Start teacher in Virginia, rebuts some tired criticisms of pre-K program effectiveness by marshalling up some evidence I hadn’t seen before:

It is strange that [pre-K critic Chester] Finn would say that only a “few tiny, costly programs targeting very poor children have shown some lasting positive effects.”

A RAND corporation study disagrees and suggests that pre-k positively impacts the impact of every child who attends. RAND suggests that in calculating potential benefit of high quality preschool, high risk students may realize 100% of benefits, medium risk students may realize 50% of benefits and low risk students may realize 25% of benefits. A voluntary universal pre-k system would increase the total number of children realizing benefits that would be passed on to our society as well as provide the most benefit to the students that most need it.  

And:

It seems that high SES students would not benefit as much from attending a public preschool program but benefits exist. Affluence does not mean a student is not at risk.  In fact, high SES students have been shown to be at greater risk than low or middle SES students for depression and drug use in adolescence, both issues that are positively affected by preschool.

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As some of you may know, Tulsa Initiative has spent much of the past year exploring the feasibility of offering high-quality employment and training services to CAP families. These types of programs can get pretty expensive prety quickly, and thus there’s been a longstanding debate on the cost-effectiveness of “jobs” programs (see this article by our friend Chris King).

ppv-earnings_differences

Emerging evidence is showing that new workforce models that combine certain essential elements show great promise. Public/Private Ventures has just released a research brief examining the characteristics and outcomes of three successful workforce programs around the country.  Over the 24-month period, they find that participants:

  • increased earnings by 18.3 percent over a control group, with employed participants earning $3,300 more than controls,
  • worked 1.3 more months than the control,
  • were 11 percentage points more likely to work all 12 months in the second year,
  • and worked in jobs that offered benefits (paid sick leave, vacation, health insurance) for 1.5 months longer.

Eight and sixteen seem to be the magic numbers here. Significant effects on earnings and probability of employment first emerge after eight months, once many participants have completed the program, and widen over time after that. At sixteen months, differences between employed participants and employed controls first become significant. This indicates that services first improve initial employability and job security and, over time, lead participants to better jobs that pay more and offer benefits when compared to a control group. Thus, funders need to remember 8 and 16 when demanding results from workforce programs. 

So what is it about these programs that make them more successful than earlier workforce models? (more…)

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A group out of New Haven, CT called Innovations for Poverty Action is evaluating anti-poverty programs around the globe to determine what works and what doesn’t. In their words:

Innovations for Poverty Action applies rigorous research techniques to test and develop solutions to real-world problems faced by the poor in developing countries.

Great. The anti-poverty world (whether we’re talking domestic or international poverty) needs as much information as it can get about what works and what doesn’t. And their roster of researchers is impressive enough that I trust their findings.

There are quite a few of these sorts of initiatives going on right now. I can name four off the top of my head, without even resorting to Google: MDRC (originally the Manpower Development Research Corporation), Mathematica Policy Research, the Center for What Works, and Edutopia.

It seems to me that the challenge before us has shifted. Access to skilled evaluators has been greatly expanded, as has awareness by funders that they have to start including evaluation costs in their grantmaking. It’s no longer about whether we should, how to, or who can evaluate promising programs. The problem is diffusing that information and enabling replication of successful models. (more…)

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If you’re like me and just can’t keep straight the basics of early childhood research, this table is just for you. Full report here, from Brookings (PDF).

 

From Julie B. Isaacs (2008), "Impacts of Early Childhood Programs," p. 3.

  

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In case you were wondering whether the editorial and news divisions really are separate at a newspaper, the Wall Street Journal gave us a case study over the last week by running two pieces – one opinion, one news – about early childhood education. Chronologically:

Opinion: “Protect our Kids from Preschool” by Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell, August 22, 2008.

The authors ask: “But is strapping a backpack on all 4-year-olds and sending them to preschool good for them?” Their answer: “Not according to available evidence.”

Preschool activists at the Pew Charitable Trust and Pre-K Now — two major organizations pushing universal preschool — refuse to take this evidence seriously. The private preschool market, they insist, is just glorified day care. Not so with quality, government-funded preschools with credentialed teachers and standardized curriculum. But the results from Oklahoma and Georgia — both of which implemented universal preschool a decade or more ago — paint an equally dismal picture.

A 2006 analysis by Education Week found that Oklahoma and Georgia were among the 10 states that had made the least progress on NAEP. Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading. Georgia’s universal preschool program has made virtually no difference to its fourth-grade reading scores. And a study of Tennessee’s preschool program released just this week by the nonpartisan Strategic Research Group found no statistical difference in the performance of preschool versus nonpreschool kids on any subject after the first grade. (Emphasis mine)

Hm. That’s funny, I seem to recall reading in Science about Bill Gormley’s study (oh, and talking with him)  and learning that “children who participated in a state-funded preschool program in Tulsa, Okla., saw gains of nine months in prereading skills, seven months in prewriting skills and five months in premath skills, relative to their peers” (emphasis mine).

(more…)

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