Somers is a senior research associate who specializes in quantitative impact evaluation in the field of education. She has experience and expertise using randomized experiments (student-level and school-level) and comparative interrupted time-series designs to evaluate the effect of educational interventions on student and teacher outcomes. She is currently overseeing the quantitative analysis for an evaluation of the Communities In Schools intervention, funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s Social Innovation Fund (EMCF-SIF), and she is the lead impact researcher for a U.S. Department of Education-funded evaluation of Teach for America’s redesigned summer training institute. Somers is also part of a project team that is developing and applying methods for exploring variation in program effects across sites and participants. That effort is funded by the Spencer Foundation. While at MDRC, Somers has led the impact analysis for evaluations of several different types of programs, including supplemental reading interventions for ninth-grade students, academic after-school programs for elementary school students, a school-wide content literacy intervention, and a college advising program in Chicago and New York City. She also served as the co-primary investigator for an EMCF-SIF-funded evaluation of the BELL summer program and as the primary investigator for an Institute of Education Sciences-funded evaluation of Ninth-Grade Academies in Florida. Somers has also worked on several projects focused on methodological topics in education research, such as using regression discontinuity and comparative time-series designs to evaluate education programs, using state assessments to measure student achievement, and using factorial designs to shed light on the effects of individual components of complex interventions. She holds a doctorate in education with a concentration in research methods from Harvard University and graduate degrees in economics and applied statistics from Oxford University.
Design Parameters for Planning the Sample Size of Individual-Level Randomized Controlled Trials in Community CollegesDecember, 2022
This paper, originally published in Evaluation Review, provides researchers with new information about the values of the key design parameters needed for planning randomized controlled trial evaluations of interventions in community colleges.Brief
A Conceptual Framework for Evaluating the Impact of Classroom Quality on Child OutcomesAugust, 2022
The Variations in Implementation of Quality Interventions project is a large-scale, rigorous study that aims to build substantial new evidence to inform policies and practices in Head Start and community-based child care centers. This brief describes the project, its key research questions, and the conceptual framework underlying it.ReportDecember, 2019
This report evaluates an early education program aimed at providing high-quality language and literacy instruction to children in underserved communities. The report examines how services delivered by senior volunteers enhanced preschoolers’ experiences in the classroom and whether this program model shows promise for improving children’s literacy and social-emotional development.Report
Findings from a Study of Teach For America’s Summer InstitutesMarch, 2019
In summer 2016, TFA piloted a redesigned training model for its teachers that incorporated college- and career-ready standards and methods. This study examined how the new model was implemented at one TFA site and how it compared with the usual TFA training at other sites.MethodologyMay, 2018
A two-stage study design can test a complex set of interventions, individually and in combination. Reflections on Methodology shows how this approach was used for a pair of programs, the first administered in preschools and the second implemented as a kindergarten follow-up for individual students.Report
A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation Of Communities In SchoolsApril, 2017
Communities In Schools (CIS) works to integrate a variety of support services for students to keep them on a path to graduation. This quasi-experimental evaluation examined the effects of the CIS whole-school model in high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.Report
Final Findings from the Communities In Schools Random Assignment EvaluationApril, 2017
Communities In Schools (CIS) works to integrate a variety of support services for students to keep them on a path to graduation. This randomized controlled trial assessed the effects of one component of the CIS model — case management for high-risk students.Report
The Effect of Ninth Grade Academies on Students’ Academic and Behavioral OutcomesJune, 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.Report
Implementation and Interim Impact Findings from the Communities In Schools EvaluationApril, 2015
Services to help students stay in school are often fragmented. In this program, school-based coordinators identify students at risk, work with them to assess their needs, connect them with school and community supports, and monitor their progress. Case-managed students received more services than others, but early impact findings are inconclusive.ReportMarch, 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.Methodology
Design Options for an Evaluation of Head Start CoachingJuly, 2014
Using a study of coaching in Head Start as an example, this report reviews potential experimental design options that get inside the “black box” of social interventions by estimating the effects of individual components. It concludes that factorial designs are usually most appropriate.Methodology
Design ReportJuly, 2014
This report provides recommendations for an evaluation of coaching that may impact teacher and classroom practices in Head Start and other early childhood settings — including about the research questions; the design of the impact study, implementation research, and cost analysis; and logistical challenges for carrying out the design.Methodology
The Validity and Precision of the Comparative Interrupted Time Series Design and the Difference-in-Difference Design in Educational EvaluationSeptember, 2013
This paper examines the properties of two nonexperimental study designs that can be used in educational evaluation: the comparative interrupted time series (CITS) design and the difference-in-difference (DD) design. The paper looks at the internal validity and precision of these two designs, using the example of the federal Reading First program as implemented in a midwestern state.Report
Report on Program Impacts, Program Fidelity, and ContrastDecember, 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.MethodologyAugust, 2012
Despite the growing popularity of the use of regression discontinuity analysis, there is only a limited amount of accessible information to guide researchers in the implementation of this research design. This paper provides an overview of the approach and, in easy-to-understand language, offers best practices and general guidance for practitioners.Methodology
Whether and How to Use State Tests to Measure Student Achievement in a Multi-State Randomized Experiment
An Empirical Assessment Based on Four Recent EvaluationsOctober, 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.Report
The Impact of Supplemental Literacy Courses for Struggling Ninth-Grade ReadersJuly, 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.ReportSeptember, 2009
This report presents two-year implementation and impact findings on two supplemental academic instruction approaches developed for after-school settings – one for math and one for reading. It addresses whether one-year impacts are different in the second year of program operations and whether students benefit from being offered two years of enhanced after-school academic instruction.ReportNovember, 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.
- Determining the ...
Middle school students who struggle with their reading are at a greater risk of not graduating from high school. Yet helping these students catch up is particularly challenging due to the changes in motivation and engagement that occur during this period of development.
Developed by the SERP Institute, Harvard University, and Wheelock...William Corrin, Barbara Condliffe, Marie-Andrée Somers, Susan Sepanik, Shelley Rappaport, Margaret Hennessy, Hannah Power, Elizabeth Ederer, Julia Walsh
MDRC, in collaboration with RAND Corporation, Digital Promise, Westat, and Public Strategies, is conducting a large-scale, national evaluation project, the ReSolve Math Study, funded by the...
Variations in Implementation of Quality Interventions (VIQI): Examining the Quality-Child Outcomes Relationship in Child Care and Early EducationJoAnn Hsueh, Michelle Maier, Frieda Molina, Samantha Wulfsohn, Marie-Andrée Somers, Electra Small, Sharon Huang, Amena Sengal, Alexandra Bernardi, Marissa Strassberger, Noemi Altman, Ilana Blum, Ebony Scott, Margaret Hennessy, Mervett Hefyan, Mallory Undestad, Sharon Rowser, Amy Taub
The Variations in Implementation of Quality Interventions (VIQI): Examining the Quality-Child Outcomes Relationship in Child Care and Early Education project is a large-scale, rigorous study with several important aims and implications for current child care and early education policy and practices, including:
Helping children and young adults develop their talents and strengths also helps them contribute to their communities in the future. Yet systemic inequities that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income households mean too many young people do not have such supportive learning environments. These inequities lead to disparities in...
Jumpstart is a national early education organization with a commitment to enriching the learning experiences of children from underserved communities. Since 1993, teams of volunteers have delivered Jumpstart’s research-based curriculum, which is designed to improve children’s language and literacy skills and social-emotional development. The program is characterized by...Charles Michalopoulos, Kristen Faucetta , Megan Millenky, Ximena Portilla, Marie-Andrée Somers, Livia Martinez
A small body of research has found that families who participated in a home visiting program when their children were young may continue to benefit through their children’s adolescence. Therefore, a long-term follow-up study is being planned for families in the Mother and...
Teach for America (TFA) is a national, externally validated program that recruits, selects, and trains new teachers, referred to as corps members, for placement in high-need urban and rural communities across the country, with the expectation that they put their students on the path to college and life success. TFA...JoAnn Hsueh, Sharon Huang, Meghan McCormick, Michelle Maier, Rebecca Unterman, Desiree Principe Alderson, Barbara Condliffe, Amena Sengal, Sonia Drohojowska, Ilana Blum, Marissa Strassberger, Marie-Andrée Somers, Noemi Altman, Alexandra Bernardi, Mirjana Pralica, Mervett Hefyan, Jálynn Castleman-Smith, Mallory Undestad, Samantha Xia, Emily Davies, Sharon Rowser, Amy Taub
With broad support across the political spectrum, states and localities throughout the country are expanding preschool programs for low-income children. While the public will is strong and the experience to date is encouraging, there is a need for firmer evidence on the most cost-effective ways to produce lasting impacts for children, especially when programs operate...
Every day, 7,000 students drop out of school. Among Latinos and African-Americans, the dropout rate is nearly 50 percent. Communities In Schools (CIS) works with low-income K-12 students in the nation’s poorest-performing schools. It seeks to reduce dropout rates through preventive support services like short-term counseling or annual health...
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. As many as one-half to three-quarters of ninth-graders in low-performing...Kate Gualtieri, Dan Bloom, Melissa Boynton, William Corrin, Fred Doolittle, John Martinez, Louisa Treskon, Jean Grossman, Leigh Parise, Marie-Andrée Somers, Michelle S. Manno, Rebecca Unterman, Megan Millenky, Rashida Welbeck, Mary Bambino
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.
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. MDRC’s research in urban districts suggests that as many as 40 percent of students fail to get promoted from ninth to tenth grade on time, and...Fred Doolittle, D. Crystal Byndloss, Marie-Andrée Somers, Michelle Ware, Rebecca Unterman, Yana Kusayeva
To remain globally competitive and to advance economic opportunity for all its residents, the United States must dramatically increase the number of low-income students who enroll in and graduate from college. Despite the broad political consensus on this point — and a significant investment of resources by public and private funders — efforts to restructure high...
Many low-income children in the early grades need after-school care. And many of these children score well below their more advantaged peers on standardized tests of reading and math. The confluence of these circumstances suggests that it may be possible to strengthen the academic component of after-school programs (now often confined to providing help with homework)...
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. While the stage is often set for these problems in elementary and middle...