MDRC and Partners Receive Awards from the U.S. Department of Education


In the past few weeks, MDRC and its partners have received a number of awards from the U.S. Department of Education:

Building Capacity to Support Struggling Adolescent Readers: Improving the reading achievement of middle school students who are behind grade level is notoriously difficult given the changes in motivation and engagement that occur during early adolescence. Developed by the SERP Institute, Harvard University, and Wheelock College, the Strategic Adolescent Reading Intervention (STARI) seeks to address these motivational barriers by giving a central role to student motivation both in topic selection and in instructional practices. Based on positive findings from a rigorous study conducted in one school district, SERP has received an Education Innovation and Research grant to expand STARI to 45 new schools in New York City, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Mississippi. MDRC will conduct an evaluation of STARI’s effect on students’ reading outcomes and their reading behaviors in these new districts and schools, using a random assignment research design. The evaluation will also include an implementation study and a cost study.

United2Read: Scaling Personalized Literacy Instruction to Ensure Strong Student Achievement: Learning Ovations, Digital Promise, University of California-Irvine, and MDRC have been awarded a five-year Education Innovation and Research expansion grant for the United2Read project. Personalized literacy instruction during the early elementary grades may help high-needs students achieve literacy proficiency. United2Read project partners will bring Learning Ovation’s “A2i” technology professional support system to students and teachers nationwide with the goal of improving literacy skills and closing the achievement gap. The A2i professional support technology is a data-driven system that was designed by and for teachers. MDRC will conduct a school-level randomized controlled trial testing different strategies to support school implementation of the program and their costs and a descriptive analysis of the broader expansion strategy of United2Read.  

City Year’s Whole School Whole Child Services: AIR and MDRC will be conducting an evaluation of Whole School Whole Child (WSWC) services developed by City Year. The holistic WSWC model, which integrates academic and social-emotional supports and aims to increase student success and high school graduation rates in high-need schools, is delivered by AmeriCorps members and is one of the largest AmeriCorps programs in the nation. The WSWC model has two tiers of student supports: universal (Tier 1) services are provided to all students, and targeted (Tier 2) services — tutoring in English Language Arts and mathematics, mentoring and attendance coaching — are provided to students who exhibit research-based early warning signs of not graduating on time: low attendance, poor behavior, and course failure in ELA or math. The study, which will be conducted in middle schools in five large urban school districts, will examine the impact of the entire WSWC model (Tier 1 and Tier 2 services) and the effect of Tier 2 services among eligible students. Effects on student outcomes in three domains will be examined: academic achievement, school engagement and social and emotional learning. The study will also include and implementation study and a cost study. The study is funded by a research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, which was awarded to AIR.

Evaluation of Teach for America’s SEED Grant: Teach for America (TFA) has placed and supported thousands of teachers, known as corps members, in high-need schools throughout the country since its inception in 1990. MDRC is currently using a quasi-experimental design to evaluate how TFA prepares corps members to teach using a redesigned summer institute model funded by a Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In a newly awarded SEED grant, TFA plans to further scale the new summer institute training and supplement it by providing summer-aligned supports to corps members during the school year. MDRC will use a random assignment design to examine the impact of the ongoing school-year professional development (known as the “hand-off”) and a mixed-methods implementation study to explore the features of the redesigned summer institute scale-up and the hand-off. One of the goals will be to look at the impact of the hand-off on several teacher outcome domains, including teachers’ perceptions of TFA and teaching, their retention rates, their self-efficacy related to culturally relevant pedagogy and classroom management strategies, and their instructional practices. In addition to looking at teacher outcomes, MDRC will also examine the effect of the hand-off on students’ performance on state assessments.