Weiss has over a decade of experience evaluating programs designed to improve community college students’ success rates. He also conducts methodological projects to improve the quality of randomized controlled trials.
Weiss has been the principal investigator on seven grants funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, five focused on randomized controlled trials of programs in postsecondary education and two focused on methods. He is currently the principal investigator of the Higher Education Randomized Controlled Trial Project and of randomized controlled trials of the City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (now in its long-term follow-up phase), Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment, and CUNY Start.
Weiss’s postsecondary and methodological work appear in peer-reviewed journals and he regularly presents at national conferences. He has been invited to give presentations at numerous conferences and organizations, including the Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Department of Labor. Weiss is the incoming editor-in-chief of the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness (effective January 1, 2020). He holds a BS and a master’s degree in applied statistics from Cornell University and a doctorate in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania.
MDRC PublicationsReportDecember, 2022
Many community colleges have implemented interventions to help students persist in college and earn degrees. MDRC has studied many such interventions; several of them improved students’ academic outcomes, but the effects varied. This report synthesizes results from 30 studies MDRC has conducted of 39 interventions at 45 colleges.Methodology
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 Brief Synthesis of 20 Years of MDRC’s Randomized Controlled TrialsJune, 2022
What works to help community college students progress academically? This brief synthesizes 20 years of rigorous research by MDRC, presenting new evidence about key attributes of community college interventions that are positively related to larger impacts on students’ academic progress.Methodology
Detecting Follow-Up Selection Bias in Studies of Postsecondary Education ProgramsApril, 2022
Meta-analyses pool results from multiple published studies to determine the likely effect of a type of intervention. This post discusses a kind of selection bias that can typically lead meta-analyses to overestimate longer-term effects for a range of interventions under consideration.Methodology
Attempting to Correct for Follow-Up Selection BiasApril, 2022
A companion post discussed a kind of selection bias that can typically lead meta-analyses to overestimate longer-term effects for a range of interventions under consideration. This post describes a way to use information on short-term outcomes to estimate how much the effects on long-term outcomes are overstated.Working Paper
A Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluation of a Developmental Education Reform at the City University of New YorkMarch, 2021
CUNY Start aims to prepare students with significant remedial needs for college-level courses. This working paper reports that over three years, CUNY Start substantially increased college readiness, slightly increased credit accumulation, and modestly increased graduation rates (by increasing participation in another highly effective program).Issue Focus
A Synthesis of Post-Program Effects in Higher EducationMarch, 2021
Some education programs’ early positive effects disappear over time, while other programs have unanticipated positive long-term effects. This Issue Focus introduces The Higher Education Randomized Controlled Trials, an examination of program effects after a postsecondary education program ends, using a database drawn from 31 MDRC projects, sampling 67,400 students.Working Paper
A Synthesis of Findings on the ASAP Model from Six Colleges Across Two StatesFebruary, 2021
This paper presents new estimates of the effects of the City University of New York (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) model, evaluated first in New York and later in Ohio. It shows long-term effects in New York on degrees earned and consistent effects in both states.Report
Final Lessons from the EASE ProjectOctober, 2020
This report presents findings from Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment, which used behavioral insights in two informational campaigns, with and without tuition assistance, to encourage community college students to take summer classes. Both interventions increased enrollment and had a modest impact on credits earned and positive return on investment for colleges.Brief
Two Proven Strategies to Boost Summer EnrollmentFebruary, 2019
Summer courses can help students progress to graduation, but most students do not enroll in them. An informational campaign incorporating behavioral science, tested with and without tuition assistance, increased summer enrollment. This brief presents findings from the Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment (EASE) project following the reinstatement of year-round Pell grants.Working Paper
A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Modularized, Computer-Assisted, Self-Paced Approach to Developmental MathOctober, 2018
This paper reports outcomes for community college students who took modularized, self-paced, computer-assisted, remedial math courses with outcomes of students who took “traditional” (that is, mostly lecture-based) classes. Modularized courses were no more (or less) effective than traditional courses at helping students complete their developmental math requirements.Brief
Using Behavioral Science to Encourage Postsecondary Summer EnrollmentJuly, 2018
Community college students who enroll in summer courses are more likely to graduate, but most do not attend during the summer. The Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment (EASE) project uses insights from behavioral science to encourage more students to enroll in summer. This brief presents EASE’s Phase I findings.Report
Early Findings from a CUNY Start EvaluationJuly, 2018
To help City University of New York (CUNY) students referred to developmental (remedial) education, CUNY Start delays their enrollment in a degree program for one semester of intensive instruction. This report describes students’ progress through developmental education after one semester, and college enrollment in the semester thereafter.MethodologyApril, 2018
Multisite randomized trials allow researchers to study both the average impact of an intervention and how the impact varies across settings, which can help guide decisions in policy, practice, and science. This Reflections on Methodology post distills some key considerations for research design and for reporting and interpreting such variation.Testimony
Testimony Before the New York City Council Committee on Higher EducationApril, 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.Report
Interim Findings from an Evaluation of a Computer-Assisted, Modular Approach to Developmental MathJune, 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.Report
Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education StudentsFebruary, 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.Report
Performance-Based Scholarships, Student Services, and Developmental Math at Hillsborough Community CollegeOctober, 2014
This program provides an incentive for developmental math students to take their math courses early and consecutively, get help in an on-campus Math Lab, and strive for passing grades or better, in exchange for a modest performance-based scholarship. Compared with standard services, the program’s effects are modest but positive.Methodology
Estimating the Standard Error of the Impact Estimator in Individually Randomized Trials with ClusteringApril, 2014
In many evaluations, individuals are randomly assigned to experimental arms and then grouped to receive services. In this situation, accounting for grouping may be necessary when estimating the impact estimate’s standard error. This paper demonstrates that nonrandom sorting of individuals into groups can bias the standard error reported by common estimation approaches.Working Paper
Seven Years LaterMarch, 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.Brief
Two-Year Results from an Evaluation of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education StudentsDecember, 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.MethodologyJune, 2013
This paper presents a conceptual framework for designing and interpreting research on variation in program effects. The framework categorizes the sources of program effect variation and helps researchers integrate the study of variation in program effectiveness and program implementation.Report
A Synthesis of Findings from Six Community CollegesJuly, 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.Report
Early Results from an Evaluation of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education StudentsJune, 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.Report
Four-Year Findings from Chaffey College’s Opening Doors ProgramNovember, 2011
This program included a “College Success” course and offered enhanced counseling. A change from optional to required services led to increased program participation, and the new program decreased the percentage on academic probation after the two program semesters. Nevertheless, after four years, the program had no discernible effect on academic outcomes.Report
An Impact Study at Hillsborough Community CollegeJune, 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.MethodologyApril, 2010
In some experimental evaluations of classroom- or school-level interventions, random assignment is conducted at the student level and the program is delivered at the higher level. This paper clarifies the correct causal interpretation of “program impacts” when this study design is used and discusses the implications and limitations of this research design. A real example is used to demonstrate the paper’s key points.Report
Three-Year Effects of an Enhanced Student Services Program at Two Community CollegesAugust, 2009
In this program, low-income students received enhanced student services and were eligible for a modest stipend for two semesters. The program improved academic outcomes in the second semester and registration in the semester after that, but these effects did not persist in subsequent semesters.
Weiss, Michael J., and Camille Headlam. Forthcoming. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Modularized, Computer-Assisted, Self-Paced, Approach to Developmental Math.” Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.
Weiss, Michael J., Alyssa Ratledge, Colleen Sommo, and Himani Gupta. 2019. “Supporting Community College Students from Start to Degree Completion: Long-Term Evidence from a Randomized Trial of CUNY’s ASAP.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 11, 3.
Bloom, Howard S., Stephen W. Raudenbush, Michael J. Weiss, and Kristin Porter. 2017. “Using Multisite Experiments to Study Cross-Site Variation in Treatment Effects: A Hybrid Approach With Fixed Intercepts and a Random Treatment Coefficient.” Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness 10, 4: 817-842.
Weiss, M. J., Lockwood, J. R., & McCaffrey, D. 2015. " Estimating the Standard Error of the Impact Estimator in Individually Randomized Trials with Clustering." Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.
Weiss, Michael J., Howard S. Bloom, Natalya Verbitsky-Savitz, Himani Gupta, Alma E. Vigil, and Daniel N. Cullinan. 2017. “How Much Do the Effects of Education and Training Programs Vary Across Sites? Evidence from Past Multisite Randomized Trials.” Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness (April 19): 1-34. Website: www.tandfonline.com.
Weiss, Michael J., Mary G. Visher, Evan Weissman, and Heather Wathington. 2015. “The Impact of Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Education: A Synthesis of Findings from Randomized Trials at Six Community Colleges.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
Weiss, Michael Joseph, Alexander Mayer, Dan Cullinan, Alyssa Ratledge, Colleen Sommo, and John Diamond. 2015. “A Random Assignment Evaluation of Learning Communities at Kingsborough Community College: Seven Years Later.” Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness 8, 2: 189-217.
Weiss, Michael J., Howard S. Bloom, and Thomas Brock. 2014. “A Conceptual Framework for Studying the Sources of Variation in Program Effects.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 33, 3.
Weiss, Michael J., and Henry May. 2012. “A Policy Analysis of the Federal Growth Model Pilot Program's Measures of School Performance: The Florida Case.” Education Finance and Policy 7, 1: 44-73.
Weiss, Michael J. 2010. “The Implications of Teacher Selection and the Teacher Effect in Individually Randomized Group Treatment Trials.” Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness 3, 4: 381-405.
Cole, Russell, and Michael J. Weiss. 2009. “Identifying Organizational Influentials: Methods and Application using Social Network Data.” Connections 29, 2: 45-61.
College administrators are better positioned than ever before to make decisions about adopting programs based on the effectiveness and cost of interventions. There is, however, a third piece of information critical to decision-making: the amount of revenue an intervention would generate at their college because of increased student...Michael J. Weiss, John Diamond, Austin Slaughter, Tiffany Morton, Colin Hill, Makoto Toyoda, Stanley Dai
For The Higher Education Randomized Controlled Trial project ( THE - RCT ), MDRC has created the largest individual-participant database from higher education randomized controlled trials to date. THE - RCT makes standardized, deidentified data from more than 25 studies covering 50 institutions of higher education and 65,000 students securely available to...
MDRC ’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science ( CABS ) and Postsecondary Education policy area launched The Finish Line: Graduation by Design to improve college completion rates using behavioral insights. Graduating from college is a challenge, particularly for low‐income and nontraditional students, who often face personal, institutional, and structural barriers to...Caitlin Anzelone, Michael J. Weiss, Melissa Boynton, Xavier Alemañy, Colin Hill, Camielle Headlam, Dorota Biedzio Rizik
The Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment ( EASE ) Project is a new initiative to improve community college persistence and completion in Ohio. The project will apply insights from behavioral science to design targeted messaging and financial incentives that encourage students to enroll in courses during the summer term.
In the U.S., higher education...Colleen Sommo, Michael J. Weiss, Michelle Ware, Melissa Boynton, Michelle S. Manno, Alyssa Ratledge, Rebekah O'Donoghue, Colin Hill
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. For example, only 20 percent of full-time, first-time degree-seeking students at...Alexander Mayer, Dan Cullinan, Evan Weissman, Michael J. Weiss, John Diamond, Rashida Welbeck, Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow
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.
Many students enter postsecondary education underprepared academically, and the success rate for these students is low. At open access colleges (like community colleges), underprepared students are typically referred to developmental (or remedial) coursework, often in the form of multilevel, noncredit course sequences in reading, English, and math.
To help...Michael J. Weiss, Rashida Welbeck, Camielle Headlam
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. With multiple exit points along the way, traditional developmental math sequences can be long and may not be optimally structured to...Colleen Sommo, Susan Scrivener, Michael J. Weiss, Michelle Ware, Michelle S. Manno, Alyssa Ratledge, Rebekah O'Donoghue, Austin Slaughter, Gilda Azurdia
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. Across the nation, between 60 and 70 percent of entering freshmen in community colleges enroll in developmental (or remedial) math, reading, or writing courses. Data show that...Michael J. Weiss, Susan Scrivener, Colleen Sommo, Dan Cullinan, John Diamond, Alyssa Ratledge, Jedediah J. Teres
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. However, a variety of factors, ranging from a lack of financial aid to inadequate student services and poor developmental classes, can impede students’ progress. Many students stop...Dan Cullinan, Alexander Mayer, Michelle Ware, Michael J. Weiss, Evan Weissman, Alyssa Ratledge, Jedediah J. Teres
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. Finding ways to increase the rates of...