Curricular/Instructional Reforms

June, 2017

Forty percent of all entering college students and over half of entering community college students must take at least one remedial course. Fewer than half make it through developmental education. This two-page Looking Forward memo provides an overview of research evidence in four areas of developmental education reform.

Early Findings from a Study of the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways

May, 2017

A promising new community college intervention involves a revised developmental math course that emphasizes statistical and quantitative reasoning skills to align with students’ fields of study. In a random assignment evaluation at four schools in Texas, students report a qualitatively different experience with math instruction.

Testimony Before the New York City Council Committee on Higher Education

April, 2017

In the City University of New York’s innovative program, CUNY’s least prepared students delay matriculation, beginning instead with noncredit, time-intensive instruction aimed at eliminating developmental needs after one semester, preparing participants for college courses, and improving academic outcomes. An independent evaluation will help determine CUNY Start’s effect on academic success.

Are School Districts Ready to Meet New Federal Goals?

March, 2017

This brief, which draws on data from a large survey of secondary school teachers and principals, discusses how existing evaluation and support systems could be better used to realize the vision of teacher improvement now included in federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

March, 2017

Even in good economic times, workers with limited education may need help getting or regaining a foothold in the job market. Effective career training programs exist. Approaches that target in-demand industries and closely involve employers can get results, benefiting high school students, adults without diplomas, and long-term unemployed workers.

Promising Approaches and Next Steps

December, 2016

A significant gap in the rates of college degree attainment persists between men of color and their white counterparts. This brief catalogues strategies commonly used in interventions at postsecondary educational institutions aimed at improving outcomes for male students of color and charts the way forward for future evaluative work.

December, 2016

This document compares two approaches to improving community college outcomes — CUNY ASAP, a specific program model, and guided pathways, a framework for institutional reform — and discusses how they might be integrated to improve structure, coherence, and support for students.

Early Findings from a Demonstration in Three Community Colleges

September, 2016

CUNY ASAP has proved exceptionally effective at increasing community college graduation rates. This demonstration tests the viability and effects of programs modeled on ASAP in different types of colleges, including those serving many nontraditional students. Early findings show increases in full-time enrollment, credits earned, and persistence into the second semester.

Interim Findings from an Evaluation of a Computer-Assisted, Modular Approach to Developmental Math

June, 2016

ModMath is a set of computer-assisted, modular courses that allow developmental (remedial) math students in community college to earn credits incrementally and move through the curriculum at their own pace. It was well implemented, and after one semester its students were closer to completing developmental math than a control group.

Interim Impact Findings from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation of Diplomas Now

June, 2016

The Diplomas Now whole-school reform model, including targeted interventions for students at risk of dropping out, had an impact on the percentage of students with no early warning indicators related to attendance, behavior, or course performance, and had more encouraging results in middle schools than high schools.

The Effect of Ninth Grade Academies on Students’ Academic and Behavioral Outcomes

June, 2016

A Ninth Grade Academy is a self-contained learning community within a high school that aims to create a more personalized environment for freshmen. The model has shown promise in the context of whole-school reform, but successful implementation is challenging. The academies studied did not improve students’ academic or behavioral outcomes.

April, 2016

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states greater responsibility for choosing strategies to improve underperforming schools. For over a decade, MDRC has rigorously evaluated school improvement strategies, collecting evidence that can help states determine which strategies are likely to work. This Issue Focus describes four of MDRC’s most recent studies.

April, 2016

This brief describes how Broward County Public Schools adopted a community of practice approach to help schools implement additional support for students in the ninth grade, a critical juncture for many of them and a long-standing focus of high school reforms and dropout-prevention initiatives.

A Preview of a CUNY Start Evaluation

April, 2016

This innovative developmental education program at the City University of New York offers intensive academic instruction and advising to CUNY’s least prepared community college students before they matriculate. The evaluation will examine the program’s effect on academic outcomes among students with very low levels of basic skills.

March, 2016

A growing number of education and workforce programs are implementing “career pathways” strategies to help youth and adults prepare for postsecondary education and quality jobs. This Issue Brief describes the career pathways approach and profiles MDRC projects that shed light on its effectiveness and potential to improve education and career outcomes.

A Look at MDRC’s Research

January, 2016

Forty percent of all entering college students and over half of entering community college students must take at least one remedial course. Fewer than half make it through developmental education. This two-page Issue Focus provides an overview of new research evidence in four areas of developmental education reform.

A Program That Almost Doubles Three-Year Graduation Rates

October, 2015

This infographic explains the City University of New York’s innovative ASAP program and the problems it addresses, summarizes MDRC’s study findings, and depicts the timeline for a replication effort at three Ohio community colleges.

Final Report from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation

September, 2015

This final report on the scale-up of Success for All, funded by a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, examines the implementation, impact, costs, and expansion of this whole-school reading reform. It finds that second-graders in schools using the program outperformed their control-group counterparts on a measure of phonics skills.

Submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

September, 2015

Following up on testimony delivered before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on August 5, 2015, Lashawn Richburg-Hayes submitted additional information on opportunities for innovation in financial aid and student support services in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Presented Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

August, 2015

On August 5, Lashawn Richburg-Hayes testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on what research evidence suggests about the best ways to improve the academic success of low-income college students.

Teachers’ Voices on Professional Development

June, 2015

Through the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping school districts and networks redesign their professional development systems. This brief — the first in a series — introduces the case study component of MDRC’s evaluation and presents some early findings from interviews with teachers.

MDRC’s Projects in Math for Low-Income Students, from Preschool to College

June, 2015

In our increasingly technological world, developing basic math skills is crucial. What can be done to promote more effective math education? This two-page issue focus describes a number of MDRC projects — from preschool to postsecondary education — that seek to improve the performance of low-income students in math.

Changing School Practices During the Second Year of Diplomas Now

May, 2015

Diplomas Now, a partnership of three national organizations, aims to increase graduation rates in high-risk schools, targeting support to students who need it most. This second report finds that Diplomas Now schools are differentiating themselves from comparable schools in their implementation of structural and instructional reforms.

Early Findings from the New Mathways Project

April, 2015

Developmental math is too often an obstacle to community college students’ success. By shifting the emphasis from “algebra for all” to math skills with broader career relevance — such as quantitative literacy and statistics — and revising course structure and sequence, this Texas-wide education reform is off to a promising start.

Examples, Evidence, and Prospects

April, 2015

High school reform is increasingly focused on the role of career-technical education (CTE) in preparing all students for success in both college and career. Instead of stand-alone vocational courses, programs that merge CTE, rigorous academics, and career exploration are gaining momentum, but schools need resources and training to implement them.

A Summary of Impact and Implementation Findings from Head Start CARES

April, 2015

This two-page issue focus summarizes the main findings from Head Start CARES, a test of three distinct classroom-based approaches to enhancing children’s social-emotional development: Incredible Years Teacher Training Program, Preschool PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies), and Tools of the Mind–Play.

March, 2015

Using data from the Head Start Impact Study, this paper examines variation in Head Start effects across individual children, policy-relevant subgroups of children, and Head Start centers. It finds that past estimates of the average effect of Head Start programs mask a wide range of relative program effectiveness.

March, 2015

MDRC’s evaluation of CUNY’s ASAP, which showed that the program is doubling the graduation rate of students who start with developmental needs, has gained a lot of attention. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about ASAP and the study — as well as their answers.

March, 2015

This report examines the implementation and effects of an academic summer program for middle school students offered by Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL). The findings suggest that BELL students did not outperform non-BELL students in reading, but that the program may have had a positive effect on students’ math achievement.

Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students

February, 2015

The City University of New York’s comprehensive ASAP program nearly doubles the three-year graduation rate for developmental education students in community college – at a lower cost-per-degree than regular services. ASAP also increases rates of transfer to four-year colleges.

Early Reflections from MDRC’s Evaluation of the Innovative Professional Development Challenge

January, 2015

In the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping school districts redesign their teacher professional development systems to better support teachers in increasing student success. This Issue Focus, the second in a series, offers some early reflections from MDRC’s study of it.

Exploratory Findings from the Head Start CARES Demonstration

December, 2014

This report suggests that evidence-based approaches can improve 3-year-olds’ social-emotional competence in mixed-age preschool classrooms. While the findings are promising, further research is needed to confirm the results and to better understand how these benefits are generated.

December, 2014

In the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping school districts redesign their teacher professional development systems to better support teachers in increasing student success. This Issue Focus introduces the iPD Challenge and presents some early findings from MDRC’s study of it.

Final Report

September, 2014

This report discusses a pilot project to prepare adult education students in New York City for the new more rigorous GED exam. Revised writing and math curricula were offered to thousands of students, but attendance was erratic. Shorter lesson sequences and support outside the classroom might allow more students to benefit.

The First Year of Implementing Diplomas Now

August, 2014

Three national organizations formed Diplomas Now in an effort to transform urban secondary schools so fewer students drop out. This report introduces Diplomas Now and the associated evaluation, shares first-year implementation fidelity findings, and discusses collaboration among the Diplomas Now partners and between those partners and schools.

The Success for All Model of School Reform

July, 2014

Success for All, a whole-school reading reform, received a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up grant in 2010 to expand to additional elementary schools. This report examines the program’s implementation and the impacts in 2012-2013, the second year of operation, on early reading skills.

Adapting a Preschool Social-Emotional Curriculum

June, 2014

In this study, an existing evidence-based curriculum was adapted for use with a special population by focusing on structural, cultural, and language issues. The findings indicate that adaptations can account for a specific population’s needs while staying true to the core principles and components of the program.

National Evaluation of Three Approaches to Improving Preschoolers’ Social and Emotional Competence

June, 2014

This demonstration tested the effectiveness of three program enhancements implemented at scale that were designed to improve preschool children’s social-emotional competence. All three had positive impacts on teacher practice and on children’s social-emotional outcomes during the preschool year, although to varying degrees and not necessarily in the expected ways.

Lessons from the First Round of Achieving the Dream Community Colleges

April, 2014

Launched in 2004, Achieving the Dream is designed to help community colleges collect and analyze student performance data and apply the results to help students succeed. This report offers lessons from the first 26 colleges to join the national initiative, which now includes more than 200 institutions.

Seven Years Later

March, 2014

This paper presents the long-term effects of a learning communities program. The program’s positive effect on credit accumulation was maintained for seven years, and there is some evidence that graduation rates increased. Economic outcomes are examined, and sobering reflections on detecting effects on economic outcomes in higher education interventions are presented.

MDRC’s Portfolio in Early Childhood Education

March, 2014

Today, leaders from across the political spectrum are calling for new investments in early childhood education. But many important questions remain about how to make the most of the promise of preschool and related interventions. MDRC’s portfolio of research and demonstration projects is tackling some of the biggest ones.

 

Large-Scale Implementation of Programs to Improve Children’s Social-Emotional Competence

December, 2013

This report describes the extent to which three different classroom-based social-emotional strategies and related professional development supports were implemented as intended in Head Start centers, as well as the degree to which teachers’ practices changed as a result.

Two-Year Results from an Evaluation of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students

December, 2013

This policy brief presents results from an evaluation of a program designed to increase the graduation rates of low-income community college students. The initiative requires full-time attendance and offers comprehensive supports and financial incentives for three full years. The program boosted two-year graduation rates substantially — by 66 percent.

Early Findings from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Scale-Up

October, 2013

Success for All, a whole-school reading reform, received a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up grant in 2010 to expand to additional elementary schools. This report examines the program’s implementation and its impact in 2011-2012, the first year of operation, on kindergartners’ early reading.

June, 2013

Many students lose their way academically in ninth grade, never recover, and never graduate high school. Ninth Grade Academies aim to ease the transition into high school by creating smaller learning communities for ninth-graders. This report evaluates one urban school district’s effort to implement this complex reform districtwide.

A Case Study of Two Community College Programs Designed to Accelerate Students Through Developmental Math

May, 2013

Acceleration” strategies seek to help developmental students progress to college-level math quicker. This report examines two models: one at Broward College compresses a traditional 16-week course into eight weeks and another at Tarrant County College divides a course into modules, allowing students to skip content they’ve already mastered.

March, 2013

Urban high schools are in trouble — high dropout rates, low student achievement, and graduates who are unprepared for the world of work are just some of the disappointing indicators. However, this policy memo, part of our “Looking Forward” series, explains how recent research has uncovered a number of approaches to improving student outcomes and reforming underperforming schools.

February, 2013

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? Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo describes how enhancing children’s social and emotional development and their early math skills may be part of the answer.

 

February, 2013

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. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo calls for bolder action to learn what works to improve developmental education.

 

Lessons from the Developmental Education Initiative

January, 2013

This report examines the efforts of 15 community colleges that expanded preexisting interventions or put in place new ones directed toward helping students move through developmental coursework more quickly and more successfully.

Report on Program Impacts, Program Fidelity, and Contrast

December, 2012

The Content Literacy Continuum combines whole-school and targeted approaches to supporting student literacy and content learning, using instructional routines and learning strategies. This report describes implementation and impact findings from a random assignment study involving 33 high schools in nine school districts.

An Evaluation of Achieving the Dream in Washington State

December, 2012

In 2006, six community and technical colleges in Washington State joined the innovative Achieving the Dream (ATD) initiative. This report describes the progress they made in implementing ATD’s “culture of evidence” principles for institutional improvement, examines strategies they implemented to improve student success, and charts trends in student outcomes before and after they joined ATD.

A Synthesis of Findings from Six Community Colleges

July, 2012

This report looks at the short-term impacts of 174 one-semester learning communities for developmental students at six community colleges. On average, the programs produced a modest impact on credits earned.

July, 2012

Two reports offer findings on the effectiveness of learning communities, a popular strategy that places small cohorts of students together in two or more thematically linked courses, usually for a single semester, with added support, such as extra advising or tutoring.

An Impact Study of Eight Developmental Summer Bridge Programs in Texas

June, 2012

Eight developmental summer bridge programs offered accelerated and focused learning opportunities for entering college students with low skills in Texas. An evaluation shows positive impacts on introductory college-level course completion in math and writing, which faded by the end of two years. The programs had no impact on persistence or the average number of credits students attempted or earned.

Early Results from an Evaluation of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students

June, 2012

The City University of New York’s ASAP program requires full-time attendance and offers comprehensive supports to community college students for three full years. Early results from a random assignment study show that ASAP increases credits earned, full-time enrollment, and completion of developmental (or remedial) coursework.

An Exploratory Study of College Readiness Partnership Programs in Texas

May, 2012

College readiness partnership programs bring together colleges and K-12 institutions to reduce the number of students who need remedial courses when they get to college. This report examines 37 partnerships in Texas to identify key characteristics of the programs, as well as benefits and challenges associated with their implementation and sustainability.

An Impact Study of a Student Success Course at Guilford Technical Community College

April, 2012

A random assignment study of a student success course for developmental students finds positive effects on students’ self-management, self-awareness, and engagement in college. The program had few overall effects on students’ academic achievement, although there were some positive impacts for the first group of students to enter the study.

A Case Study of Peer Leader Programs at Two Achieving the Dream Colleges

February, 2012

Northern Essex Community College and Bunker Hill Community College employed academically successful students to serve as peer leaders to offer additional classroom assistance to fellow students in developmental and introductory college-level courses. The report discusses how the colleges designed and implemented these programs and offers insights into students’ experiences in peer-assisted courses.

Impact Studies at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County

February, 2012

Two colleges implemented semester-long learning communities linking developmental English with a range of other courses. At Merced, learning communities students earned more developmental English credits and passed more English courses than a control group. At CCBC, there were no meaningful impacts on students’ credit attempts or progress. Neither college’s program had an impact on persistence or on cumulative credits earned.

Improving Classroom Practices in Head Start Settings

February, 2012

This report offers lessons about using coaches to help teachers carry out a program for improving pre-kindergarteners’ social and emotional readiness for school. It addresses selection of the coaching model; coach hiring, training, support, and supervision; coaching processes; and program management, data, and quality assurance.

An Empirical Assessment Based on Four Recent Evaluations

October, 2011

This reference report, prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), uses data from four recent IES-funded experimental design studies that measured student achievement using both state tests and a study-administered test.

An Implementation and Early Impacts Study of Eight Texas Developmental Summer Bridge Programs

October, 2011

For entering college students with low basic skills, eight intensive summer programs provided accelerated instruction in math, reading, and/or writing; academic support; a “college knowledge” component; and the opportunity to receive a $400 stipend. Early results suggest that participants were more likely to pass entry-level college courses in math and writing.

An Impact Study of Career-Focused Learning Communities at Kingsborough Community College

July, 2011

Students took two courses in their major and one on careers associated with their major. Active, collaborative, and interdisciplinary learning was emphasized. No meaningful impacts on educational outcomes were found for the full sample, but recent transfer students saw a modest positive impact on credits earned during the program semester.

What We Know About Improving Developmental Education

June, 2011

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. 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.

Progress and Challenges During the First Year of the Achieving the Dream Developmental Education Initiative

May, 2011

This report examines the Achieving the Dream Developmental Education Initiative, an effort to expand promising developmental education interventions in 15 community colleges. During the 2009-2010 academic year, the colleges made progress and encountered challenges in implementing reform strategies in four key areas: changes in curriculum and instruction, academic and student supports, institutionwide policy changes, and precollege interventions.

May, 2011

In a study sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, intensive professional development programs for seventh-grade math teachers were implemented as intended, but teacher turnover limited the average dosage received. The programs had no impact on teacher knowledge or student achievement.

April, 2011

This paper provides practical guidance for researchers who are designing and analyzing studies that randomize schools — which comprise three levels of clustering (students in classrooms in schools) — to measure intervention effects on student academic outcomes when information on the middle level (classrooms) is missing.

Five Years of Achieving the Dream in Community Colleges

February, 2011

This interim report examines the experiences of the first 26 colleges to join the ambitious Achieving the Dream initiative. Launched by Lumina Foundation for Education in 2004, Achieving the Dream helps community colleges collect and analyze student performance data in order to build a “culture of evidence,” enabling the colleges to use that knowledge to develop programs to increase students’ academic success.

Impact Studies at Queensborough and Houston Community Colleges

February, 2011

Learning communities, which co-enroll small groups of students into linked courses, are a popular strategy for helping developmental students at community colleges succeed. This report examines the impacts of one-semester learning communities for developmental math students at Queensborough Community College and Houston Community College. At both colleges, students in learning communities attempted and passed their developmental math class at higher rates than students in a control group. However, this impact generally did not translate into increased cumulative progress in math by the end of two or three semesters.

How Do We Know What Works?

October, 2010

Prepared for the recent White House Summit on Community Colleges, this paper describes interventions with rigorous research evidence of effectiveness and offers thoughts on bringing such programs to scale. The good news is: many states and colleges are piloting reforms, and there is a growing body of evidence on strategies that work.

The Impact of Supplemental Literacy Courses for Struggling Ninth-Grade Readers

July, 2010

Over the course of ninth grade, two supplemental literacy courses modestly improved students’ reading comprehension skills and helped them perform better academically in their course work. However, these benefits did not persist in the following school year, when students were no longer receiving the supplemental support.

An Impact Study at Hillsborough Community College

June, 2010

A random assignment study of learning communities that linked a developmental reading course and a “college success” course finds that faculty collaboration and curricular integration increased over time. Overall, the program had no impact on students’ academic success, but evidence suggests that it had some positive effects for the last cohort of students in the study.

How Much Do Achieving the Dream Colleges Spend — and from What Resources — to Become Data-Driven Institutions?

June, 2010

This report analyzes the experiences of five community colleges that participate in Lumina Foundation’s Achieving the Dream initiative and the investments they made in implementing an institutional improvement process aimed at increasing students’ success. The report examines how, where, and with what resources these colleges supported their reforms, as well as the key activities driving their overall expenditures.

April, 2010

This report presents first-year results from the Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. The professional development programs for seventh-grade math teachers had an impact on one measure of teacher practice but no effects on teachers’ knowledge or student achievement.

Men of Color Discuss Their Experiences in Community College

March, 2010

This report takes an in-depth look at the perceptions and experiences of 87 African-American, Hispanic, and Native American men who were enrolled in developmental math courses at four community colleges. The study explores how the students’ experiences in their high schools and communities, as well as their identities as men of color, influenced their decision to go to college and their engagement in school.

The Experience of Six Community Colleges

March, 2010

Learning communities, which enroll groups of students together in coordinated classes, are increasingly being used to help developmental-level students succeed. This report on the Learning Communities Demonstration, a large-scale, random assignment evaluation, describes the strategies that six community colleges used and the challenges they faced in scaling up their programs.

The Policy and Practice of Assessing and Placing Students in Developmental Education Courses

March, 2010

This paper reports on case studies conducted at three community colleges to learn about how the colleges assess students for placement in developmental education courses. The case studies identify several problems and challenges, including lack of consensus about the standard for college-level work, the high-stakes nature of the assessments, and the minimal relationship between assessment for placement and diagnosis for instruction.

An Impact Evaluation of the Beacon Program at South Texas College

February, 2010

Created as part of the national Achieving the Dream initiative, a “light touch” intervention targeting students enrolled in lower-level math courses increased the number of students using campus tutoring and academic services. While the program has not improved math class pass rates or persistence in college overall, it has had positive effects for part-time and developmental students.

A Case Study of an Achieving the Dream College

September, 2009

Achieving the Dream teaches community colleges to use student data to improve programming and student success. Since participating, Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina has become a data-driven, success-oriented institution and has seen promising trends in student achievement. This study offers lessons for other colleges undertaking similar institutional reform.

Findings from an Evaluation of the Formative Assessments of Student Thinking in Reading (FAST-R) Program in Boston Elementary Schools

December, 2008

This report contains findings from an evaluation of a program in the Boston Public Schools that seeks to improve reading instruction and student learning through one type of data-driven instruction. The program provides teachers with formative assessments that they can use to measure what students do and do not know, along with professional development on how to understand and use the data generated by those assessments. The study looks at FAST-R’s effects on reading scores among third- and fourth-graders.

A Case Study of Three Achieving the Dream Colleges

December, 2008

This report examines the experiences of three of the 83 colleges currently involved in the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count project, an initiative of Lumina Foundation for Education, and their efforts to improve instruction in developmental education classrooms.

November, 2008

This report presents findings from the second year of the Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) study, a demonstration and random assignment evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs — Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy and Xtreme Reading — that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninth-grade readers.

August, 2008

This issue brief, published by the National High School Center, highlights lessons from selected policies and programs designed to improve students’ preparation for life after high school.

Rationale, Sites, and Research Design

May, 2008

Launched in 2007 by MDRC and the National Center for Postsecondary Research, the Learning Communities Demonstration is testing models of this promising approach in six community colleges in five states. This report describes the research design, including information about the colleges and their models, the random assignment process, data sources, analysis plans, and reporting schedule.

Two-Year Effects of a Freshmen Learning Community Program at Kingsborough Community College

March, 2008

Freshmen in a “learning community” at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY, moved more quickly through developmental English requirements, took and passed more courses, and earned more credits in their first semester than students in a control group. Two years later, they were also somewhat more likely to be enrolled in college.

January, 2008

This report presents early findings from a demonstration and random assignment evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninth-grade readers. On average, the programs produced a positive, statistically significant impact on reading comprehension among students.

May, 2007

This issue brief, published by the National High School Center, suggests that transitions into high school can be eased when both structural and specialized curricula reforms are in place.

May, 2007

This policy brief, published by the National High School Center, focuses on five key challenges that states, districts, and schools should address to support a successful transition into high school.

May, 2007

This “snapshot,” published by the National High School Center, explains how Thomas A. Edison High School in Philadelphia implemented a Ninth-Grade Success Academy.

Early Progress in the Achieving the Dream Initiative

May, 2007

Achieving the Dream is a multiyear, national initiative, launched by Lumina Foundation for Education, to help community college students stay in school and succeed. The 83 participating colleges commit to collecting and analyzing data to improve student outcomes, particularly for low-income students and students of color. This baseline report describes the early progress that the first 27 colleges have made after just one year of implementation.

The Effects of Four Popular Improvement Programs

November, 2006

This research brief, published by the National High School Center, draws on findings from four studies by MDRC that shed light on both the nature of the problems found in low-performing high schools and on the effectiveness of promising interventions that attempt to address those problems.

An Exploratory Analysis

January, 2006

This analysis of data collected in MDRC’s evaluation of the First Things First reform initiative confirms that high school students’ engagement in school and perceptions of their own academic competence influence their mathematics achievement. The study also suggests that perceived academic competence may be more influential than engagement in boosting achievement in both mathematics and reading.

A Background Paper

December, 2005

Interest in learning communities at colleges and universities is growing, as is early evidence of their impact on student success. This paper reviews the history, theory, and research on learning communities, describes how they operate, and proposes a multicollege demonstration project to build more conclusive evidence of their effectiveness.

Findings and Lessons from First Things First

July, 2005

First Things First, a comprehensive school reform initiative, increased student achievement in Kansas City, Kansas, the first school district to adopt the reform model. It is not yet clear if First Things First is working in four other school districts in which it has been replicated.

Evidence from the Talent Development High School Model

May, 2005

Talent Development, a high school reform initiative, produced substantial positive effects on attendance, academic course credits earned, tenth-grade promotion, and algebra pass rates for students in very low-performing schools in Philadelphia.

Context, Components, and Initial Impacts on Students’ Performance and Attendance

December, 2004

During the first three years of implementation in six urban schools, The Talent Development Middle School model—an ongoing, whole-school reform initiative—had a positive impact on math achievement for eighth-graders but appeared to produce no systematic improvement in outcomes for seventh-graders.

July, 2004

Relying on 427 classroom observations conducted over a three-year period, this study traces changes in teachers’ instructional practices in the First Things First schools.

Context, Components, and Initial Impacts on Ninth-Grade Students’ Engagement and Performance

June, 2004

An examination of the implementation and early impacts of Talent Development, a whole-school reform initiative, found that the model produced substantial gains in ninth-grade students’ course completion and promotion rates.

Findings from the First Implementation Year

December, 2003

Based on survey data and findings from interviews and observations, this report describes the First Things First reform initiative and its first year of implementation at seven secondary schools, with a focus on three key components: small learning communities, a family advocacy system, and instructional improvement strategies.

Creating the Conditions and Capacity for Community-Wide Reform in an Urban School District

November, 2002

Take a look inside the Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) public schools and you will find challenges facing any urban district: insufficient funding, large numbers of at-risk students, declining enrollment and teacher shortages. You will also see teachers working in teams and staying with their students for more than one year, lower ratios of students to teachers in key classes and extra time built into the day for professional development.

A Look at Early Implementation and Impacts on Student Achievement in Eight Elementary Schools

November, 2001

Methodological Lessons from an Evaluation of Accelerated Schools

October, 2001

Case Studies of Educational Improvement and Title I in Secondary Schools

January, 2000

Testing an Intervention to Help High School Freshmen Succeed

April, 1999

The Equity 2000 Initiative in Milwaukee Public Schools

April, 1999
Project Overview

This study evaluates a new two-year intervention focused on student writing called Drive to Write. The intervention integrates technology coaching into a global history curriculum to create opportunities for focused student writing and revision and increased teacher feedback on writing.

Project Overview

Chicago has seen a staggering increase in violent crime over the past three years, with violent crime rates that are over double the national average.

Project Overview

African-American male students at institutions of higher education have been the focus of a variety of recent policy and program intervention efforts nationally.

Project Overview

While the U.S. has made strides in increasing college access among low-income students, college completion has remained low. Graduation rates are particularly stagnant among our nation’s community colleges, which enroll a large number of low-income and nontraditional college students.

Project Overview

With broad support across the political spectrum, states and localities throughout the country are expanding preschool programs for low-income children.

Project Overview

While English language learners and disadvantaged native English speakers may have sufficient skills to engage in everyday conversation, many struggle with academic language, the more formal language typically used in school.

Project Overview

Success Academy is a prominent charter network in New York City with schools located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Across 32 elementary, middle, and high schools in 2014, Success Academy served roughly 9,000 students.

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The High 5s project is part of the Robin Hood Early Childhood Research Initiative, a partnership between MDRC and the Robin Hood Foundation focused on improving the life trajectories of low-income children in New York City.

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In 2003, approximately 58,000 students from low-income backgrounds took an Advanced Placement (AP) exam. By 2013, that number had more than quadrupled to almost 275,000 low-income students taking at least one Advanced Placement exam.

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The Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) conducts research to document current practices in developmental English and math education across the United States and to rigorously evaluate innovative assessment and instructional practices. CAPR, led by MDRC and the Community College Research Center, is funded by the federal Institute of Education Sciences.

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Many students enter postsecondary education underprepared academically, and the success rate for these students is low.

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Too many of the nation’s young adults struggle to obtain the educational credentials needed to be successful, productive members of society. When this study was under way, 39 million adults in the United States lacked a high school diploma or its equivalent; moreover, every year, more than 1.3 million students dropped out of high school.

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Middle school is a crucial stage for math instruction because students must master the context needed for more advanced high school math. But middle school math achievement has been difficult to improve.

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As community colleges try to increase graduation rates, one of the greatest challenges they face is improving the success of students in their developmental, or remedial, education programs. The Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP), formerly known as the New Mathways Project, was developed by the Charles A.

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Even though enrollment in community colleges is steadily increasing, graduation and transfer rates remain disappointingly low. Developmental (or remedial) math is arguably the greatest stumbling block to community college completion.

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This project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides research and evaluation support for the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) Challenge, which seeks to clarify the extent to which changes in school district professional development systems lead to different teacher experiences and measu

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MDRC is evaluating the AVID College Readiness System along with the establishment of a “vertical alignment collaborative” across several middle and high schools and a local community college, all located in rural Central Florida.

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Improving the reading performance of at-risk elementary students is one of the greatest challenges confronting American education.

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The transition into high school is a volatile time for adolescents and a precarious point in the educational pipeline. Evidence shows ninth grade to be one of the leakiest junctures in this pipeline.

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The Social Innovation Fund (SIF), an initiative enacted under the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act, targets millions of dollars in public-private funds to expand effective solutions across three issue areas: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development and school support.

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Head Start, which serves nearly 1 million low-income children, is the nation’s largest federally sponsored early childhood education program.

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National attention is focused on increasing graduation rates at community colleges. Graduation rates are particularly low for students who come to campus underprepared for college-level work.

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Too many students enter college without sufficient skills in English and math to succeed — which forces them to take developmental (or remedial) education courses. Across the nation, roughly 30 percent of entering freshman students enroll in developmental math or English courses.

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Unprecedented national attention is now focusing on the community college as a critical institution for helping American workers secure economic well-being and for helping the nation as a whole to retain a competitive edge in the world economy.

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While educators and officials across the United States are struggling with how to raise student achievement and improve graduation rates, very few programs have been shown to work at scale in achieving either goal.

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The available research suggests that regular use of formative assessments can be a powerful driver of student learning. However, little rigorous research has been conducted on the impacts of formative assessment and data-driven instruction on student achievement, particularly in reform-rich urban school districts.

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Low-performing high schools, particularly those serving low-income communities and students of color, are often characterized by high absentee and course failure rates, substantial dropout rates, and — even for graduates — inadequate preparation for postsecondary education and the labor market.

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A solid understanding of rational numbers — fractions, decimals, ratios, and proportions and percents — is necessary for student success in algebra and beyond. Yet, decades of research on student achievement show that students struggle with these concepts.

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Students with learning difficulties are more likely to demonstrate low academic achievement despite recent advances in curriculum design, assessments to inform instructional decisions, and research-based intervention strategies.

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Elementary schools that educate children at risk of academic failure have traditionally responded by offering remedial instruction that slows the pace of learning. Research suggests, however, that remediation makes it harder for students to catch up and join the educational mainstream.

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Low-performing high schools, particularly those serving low-income communities and students of color, are often characterized by high absentee and course failure rates, substantial dropout rates, and — even for graduates — inadequate preparation for postsecondary education and the labor market.

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The problems of urban middle and high schools are rooted in the inadequate preparation that too many students receive in elementary schools, and these problems become most visible in the ninth grade, when students encounter more demanding coursework and tougher requirements for grade-level promotion.

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Community colleges, which tend to be accessible and affordable, serve as a critical resource for low-income individuals striving to improve their prospects in the labor market and life.

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A postsecondary credential has become increasingly important in the labor market, and college attendance has grown. Unfortunately, college completion remains less common, particularly in community colleges, which serve many low-income and academically underprepared students who often need remedial (developmental) courses.

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Community colleges enroll almost half of all U.S. undergraduate students, yet the majority of these students leave without earning a degree or certificate or transferring to another institution to continue their studies. As a result, they risk losing the opportunity to learn and to earn a livable wage.

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Large, comprehensive high schools in urban areas are often troubled environments for teaching and learning. Research strongly indicates that, in such schools, ninth grade is a year in which many students start on the path to low achievement and dropping out.

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Developed by the Institute for Research and Reform in Education (IRRE), First Things First is an ambitious comprehensive school reform model that seeks to address the impersonal nature and poor performance of many secondary schools serving disadvantaged students.