Evidence First: MDRC Podcast

Evidence First: MDRC Podcast

Policymakers talk about solutions, but which ones really work? MDRC’s Evidence First podcast features experts—program administrators, policymakers, and researchers—talking about the best evidence available on education and social programs that serve people with low incomes.

Evidence First is hosted by Leigh Parise and produced by Katya Manna. It is available on all major podcast platforms.


Ahmed Whitt from the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and Alissa Stover, formerly of MDRC, discuss the partnership between CEO and MDRC’s Center for Data Insights and how data science tools can more fully capture participants’ lived experiences.


Leigh Parise talks with Dan Tesfay from the Kauffman Foundation and MDRC’s Osvaldo Avila about the Real World Learning initiative, which aims to ensure Kansas City high school students graduate with at least one “market value asset,” an experience or credential to prepare them for further education and employment.


Leigh Parise talks with Michael Meotti and Isaac Kwakye of the Washington Student Achievement Council and Rick Hendra of the MDRC Center for Data Insights about their research partnership that is developing data-analytics tools to support the use of evidence in policy decisions at the state level.


Leigh Parise talks with Matt Giani of the University of Texas at Austin about his recent study on the employment and postsecondary education outcomes of Texas students who earn industry-recognized credentials in high school, and about the study’s implications for career and technical education policy and practice.


In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with Amanda Janice Roberson of the Institute for Higher Education Policy and Jinann Bitar of The Education Trust about policies and practices to advance equitable student outcomes in higher education, including the federal College Completion Fund.


In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with federal, state, and local child support professionals about the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt project, which integrates procedural justice (the idea of fairness in processes) into child support programs at participating agencies.


The pandemic has had devastating effects on students’ learning. One strategy to help students is individualized (or personalized) instruction, such as tutoring. In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with Andy Rotherham, cofounder of Bellwether, and William Corrin, the director of MDRC’s K-12 Education policy area, about the promise, challenges, and politics of implementing individualized instruction.


Federal investments in training for green jobs have focused mostly on adults. In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with Rachel Rosen about evidence-based strategies that can help create pathways for careers in the green economy for young people.


To ensure that measurement tools are used most effectively in the classroom, it is important to include teachers’ perspectives in the development of the pre-K assessment system. In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with two pre-k educators, Lia Wilson and Brooks Wilson from the Parent Infant Center in Philadelphia, about their experiences with the assessment process and how it can be improved.


In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with two leaders from the AppleTree Institute—Dr. Niesha Keemer, Principal and Instructional Leader, and Dr. Abby Carlson, Director of Research and Impact­— about the benefits of pre-K assessments and the AppleTree Institute’s Every Child Ready model.


In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with Brit Henderson, a research associate at MDRC’s Center for Data Insights and Center for Criminal Justice Research, about the effectiveness of pretrial system reforms and the challenges jurisdictions face in implementing them.


Join Leigh Parise as she talks with Michael Weiss, a Senior Fellow at MDRC, about The Higher Education Randomized Controlled Trial project (THE-RCT), a database compiling data from all of MDRC’s higher education evaluations, to answer important questions about the effectiveness of different interventions for student success.


Join Leigh Parise as she speaks with students and staff from Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Indiana about SUCCESS, a comprehensive support program designed to increase postsecondary success for students from low-income backgrounds and students of color.


Join Leigh Parise as she talks with two career coaches, Shirley McGee (Houston Housing Authority) and Ashley Coston (Housing Authority of Baltimore), about the benefits of the MyGoals for Employment Success program and the challenges faced by both participants and coaches.


Join Leigh Parise as she talks with researchers Karin Martinson (Abt Associates) and Susan Scrivener (MDRC), as well as Matthew Brown (Addiction Recovery Care, or ARC), about ways programs continued to provide employment services along with substance use disorder treatment and recovery services during the pandemic.


Work-based learning opportunities like internships and apprenticeships are a critical component of career and technical education programs. In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with MDRC’s Hannah Dalporto about how employers and trainers have been adapting their services during the pandemic to keep students connected to the labor market.


MDRC is conducting a replication study of Child First, a promising home visiting model, that aims to mitigate or prevent trauma for families to promote healthy development in children. Join Leigh Parise as she talks with guests about MDRC’s study and how the program adapted during the pandemic.


In this special coproduction with the Rural Matters podcast, join Michelle Rathman as she talks with three experts about innovative higher education programs to promote sustainable growth for rural communities and economic mobility for students.


In this special coproduction with the Rural Matters podcast, join Michelle Rathman as she talks with MDRC’s Alyssa Ratledge and three other experts about diversity in rural communities and the innovative initiatives rural colleges are developing to address the needs of diverse students.


Leigh Parise interviews Rebecca Schwartz, a research analyst in MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science, about how insights from behavioral science can help agencies and nonprofits find ways to streamline their processes and simplify their communications with clients.


In this special coproduction with the Rural Matters podcast, join Michelle Rathman as she talks with Danielle Vetter, Ascendium Education Group; Stephanie Hyre, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation; Corley Dennison, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission; and Paul Daugherty, Philanthropy West Virginia.


In this special coproduction with the Rural Matters podcast, join Michelle Rathman as she talks with MDRC’s Alyssa Ratledge; Dr. Jan Miller, Dean of the College of Education and the Director of Online Programs at the University of West Alabama (UWA); and Joe Thiel, Director of Academic Policy and Research for the Montana University System.


Katie Beal speaks with Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, a senior associate at MDRC, about encouraging findings from a recent study of the Dana Center Math Pathways curricula, which diversifies math course content so that it better aligns with community college students’ career interests.


Leigh Parise interviews MDRC Senior Vice President Dan Bloom about subsidized employment, which uses public funds to create jobs for the unemployed and which is especially useful during economic downturns. As policymakers respond to pandemic-induced mass joblessness, subsidized jobs can be designed to reach the most disadvantaged. Bloom explains how.


Katie Beal speaks with Christine Brongniart, the University Executive Director of City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), and Camielle Headlam, a research associate at MDRC, about what it took to replicate the successful ASAP model at three community colleges in Ohio.


Leigh Parise talks with Rachel Rosen, codirector of MDRC’s Center for Effective Career and Technical Education, about MDRC’s study of the P-TECH 9-14 school model, a six-year program where high schools collaborate with community colleges and industry partners. Interim results show the model boosts credits and state exam pass rates.


Join Leigh Parise as she talks with MDRC’s own Caitlin Anzelone about the Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment Project. Using insights from behavioral science, the project’s two low-cost interventions boosted the number of students at 10 Ohio community colleges who enrolled in summer courses.


Join Leigh Parise as she talks with Robert Drake, one of the developers of the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model, and MDRC’s Lily Freedman, who conducted an evaluation of a San Diego program that used IPS to help people with a wide range of disabilities find employment.


Recently, MDRC celebrated 25 years of working in the field of K-12 research — collaborating with teachers, school leaders, and districts to improve students’ prospects for success. In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with Fred Doolittle and William Corrin about how MDRC expanded into education research.


In this episode, Kate Gualtieri talks with MDRC Senior Fellow Melissa Wavelet about using data driven strategies to help city and state government agencies meet their goals and improve services. They discuss the TANF Data Collaborative, a new initiative sponsored by the Office of Family Assistance and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in the federal Administration for Children and Families, created to promote the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) data for program improvement and evidence-building at the federal, state, and local levels.


In this episode, Katie Beal interviews Dr. Marcia Ballinger, President of Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, about replicating CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) — a comprehensive student support program that substantially increased graduation rates for Lorain community college students.


Access to high-quality preschool education can have substantial positive impacts on children’s early learning and development, but the boost in skills young children experience can fade out as they move on to kindergarten and elementary school. This fadeout pattern has drawn greater attention to students’ experiences after preschool, in early elementary school, and helped increase support for improving curricular alignment from preschool to third grade. Alignment refers to the range of policies and practices designed to launch young children on a positive developmental pathway, with the early elementary grades continuing to build on what children learn in preschool. In this episode, Leigh Parise talks with MDRC’s Meghan McCormick, the lead impact investigator for the Expanding Children’s Early Learning, or ExCEL, P-3 study, about high-quality preschool education and implementing aligned curricula.


Microlending, or small loans to low-income people to start or grow their businesses, is a promising approach to combat poverty and improve overall well-being. But little rigorous evidence exists on the model’s effectiveness. The early results of MDRC’s evaluation of the Grameen America program are promising. This episode discusses the challenges of carrying out a random assignment study design for Grameen America’s complex model and the partnership that helped overcome them.


One out of every 10 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 is neither working nor in school. These “disconnected” young people face an uphill battle finding work and are at risk of economic hardship well into adulthood. Join Katie Beal as she talks with MDRC’s Dan Bloom about three recent studies of youth employment programs — YouthBuild, Year Up, and New York City’s Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP) — and suggestions for creating a coordinated system to help put young people on a path to success.


Students who are placed into developmental (remedial) courses often fail to complete them, and many colleges and states are therefore interested in reforming developmental education. Research suggests that standardized tests — the traditional method for placing students into developmental or college-level courses — misplaces substantial numbers of them. An alternative strategy is to place students using multiple measures of college readiness, including grade point averages. This episode discusses early findings from a study of systems that use multiple measures for placement, and covers lessons for colleges interested in implementing these systems.


How should policymakers address the long-standing youth unemployment problem in Puerto Rico, which only worsened in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria? With support from the W. T. Grant Foundation, MDRC partnered with Instituto del Desarrollo de la Juventud, or the Youth Development Institute, to develop recommendations that can create pathways into the workforce for young people and that are supported by evidence-based and promising practices relevant to the current situation in Puerto Rico. Join Katie Beal as she talks to John Martinez, Director of Program Development at MDRC, about those recommendations and the challenges of implementing them.


Career and technical education programs have taken on many different forms, but one that has been gaining in popularity is apprenticeships. Colorado is at the forefront of this emerging apprenticeship movement. Inspired by the Swiss model of apprenticeship, the CareerWise Colorado initiative seeks to enlist hundreds of employers from many sectors to employ thousands of high school students in the nation’s first large-scale youth apprenticeship program. If a two-year pilot test goes well, the plan is to expand the model to a statewide scale, and eventually to expand it nationwide.


This summer Congress passed the long-awaited reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which governs the federal investment in career and technical education (CTE). But what do CTE programs actually do? And how have they evolved over time? Join Katie Beal as she talks to Mary Visher, a senior research associate at MDRC, about CTE programs — including their development and challenges. They also discuss MDRC’s two-decade history of constructing and evaluating CTE programs, including the landmark study of Career Academies, and the other CTE programs MDRC is currently partnering with to build evidence and inform policy and practice. 


Early math ability is one of the best predictors of children’s math and reading skills into late elementary school. Children with stronger math proficiency in elementary school are then more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. MDRC wanted to know: What kinds of math programs can improve children’s early math abilities? And can they lead to positive impacts on other longer-term outcomes? Join Katie Beal as she talks to Shira Mattera, Research Associate at MDRC, and Robin Jacob, a Research Associate Professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, about the positive impacts of the Making Pre-K Count and High 5s demonstrations.


Social service organizations and education programs aim to help the people they serve achieve positive outcomes, but some participants still don’t succeed. Predictive analytics is a tool that can help programs use existing data to predict which clients are at risk of not meeting important milestones. This can help program staff intervene with additional supports for those who need them and, hopefully, avoid unwanted outcomes.
Join Katie Beal as she talks to Rekha Balu, Research Associate at MDRC, and Brad Dudding, Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), to learn more about how CEO is using predictive analytics.


College Promise programs help students access college by covering the cost of tuition and fees, but they do not typically address barriers to student success. In this episode, Alyssa Ratledge and Monica Rodriguez discuss the Detroit Promise Path, which provides evidence-based support strategies to students to help them stay in school and graduate.


School choice can be an arduous process and can prove especially challenging for low-income or recent-immigrant families. Offering supports, simplifying the process, and personalizing information, among other things, can help families navigate decisions about school choice. In this episode, MDRC researcher Barbara Condliffe considers how lessons from other policy arenas can help improve school choice process.                 .


A sector-focused approach to job training can help low-income adults build skills for jobs in high-demand fields with opportunities for career growth. In this episode, MDRC researcher Richard Hendra offers lessons from WorkAdvance, a skill-building program that works closely with employers to help job seekers prepare for and enter quality jobs.


Can small changes based on the insights of behavioral science improve the effectiveness of social programs? Join Therese Leung as she talks to three guests about MDRC’s work in behavioral science, especially its work with child support programs.


In this episode, Therese Leung interviews three guests about the PACE Center for Girls in Florida, a juvenile justice prevention program that provides treatment and services with the needs of girls in mind, and MDRC’s ongoing evaluation of the intervention.


Are there services that can help young people aging out of the foster care and juvenile justice systems make a successful transition to adulthood? In this episode, Therese Leung talks with Erin Valentine about MDRC’s evaluation of the successful YVLifeSet program from Youth Villages.


What’s worked to help disadvantaged youth get jobs? And how can we get more employers actively engaged in this issue?

Farhana Hossain recently coauthored a report, Toward a Better Future: Evidence on Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Youth in the United States, that reviews labor market trends and research on employment-related programs for youth over the past 30 years. The Great Recession took a toll on the already dim economic prospects of low-income 16- to 24-year-olds who face structural barriers to employment. The evidence suggests that the involvement of employers in devising education, training, and work experiences that meet labor market demands should be a key component of any policy response.