Looking Forward” Memos Provide Recommendations for Policy and Research


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.

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.

Reforming Underperforming High Schools

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.

Improving College Readiness in the Age of the Common Core

Too many students enter college underprepared, drop out, and never earn a credential that would give them access to stable, well-paid jobs. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo describes some promising college readiness programs that can provide students with the skills they need to successfully complete college, but cautions that more evidence is needed.

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.

Promoting Employment Stability and Advancement Among Low-Income Adults

While we know how to help low-income individuals prepare for and find work, too many end up in low-wage jobs and never advance up the career ladder. This policy memo describes what we’ve learned about advancement strategies — both those that show promise and those that don’t work.

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.