Issue Focus

The Year in Review: Six “Evidence First” Podcast Episodes from 2019


Policymakers talk about solutions, but which ones really work? In 2019, MDRC’s Evidence First podcast featured experts — program administrators, policymakers, and researchers — talking about the best evidence available on education and social programs that serve low-income people. The Evidence First podcast is produced by Katya Manna.

Using Data-Driven Strategies for Program Improvement

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.

Replicating CUNY’s ASAP Model in Ohio: Interview with Dr. Marcia Ballinger

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

Can Aligned Instruction Prevent Pre-K Fadeout?

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.

The Story of a Practitioner-Researcher Partnership: Studying the Effects of the Grameen America Program

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.

Steps to Upward Mobility: Lessons from Three Youth Employment Programs

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.

How to Improve College Placement Using Multiple Measures

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.

Stay tuned for new episodes in early 2020 on MDRC’s 25-year history of K-12 education evaluations, the Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families project, and the Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment project.