In this commentary originally published in Route Fifty, experts from MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science and BIT North America describe how government agencies can use behavioral science to adapt policies, programs, and services during the continuing pandemic crisis.
When Washington state’s Division of Child Support closed its offices in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, its employment program—Families Forward Washington—kept running with minimal interruption, because the original design was based on working remotely. Its model may offer useful pointers for other service agencies for adapting to the pandemic.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, early care and education providers faced challenges attracting and retaining qualified, well-trained, and diverse early educators — and staff turnover can affect children’s early progress. Three approaches may help improve these workers’ access to professional education, their overall economic well-being, and their sometimes difficult working conditions.
Meeting the Needs of Workers and Employers
Low-wage workers have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing greater levels of unemployment than their higher-wage-earning peers. Training programs that focus on moving workers into skilled jobs in industries with strong local demand could reposition them for 21st-century success.
More children spend time in preschool now than a decade ago, but not all of them get educational programs of the same quality. This brief explores how to put new classroom curricula in place across multiple schools to bolster classroom quality, instructional practices, and children’s skills.
Career and Technical Education Connects the Dots
The economic recession triggered by the global pandemic has magnified the need for high-quality programs that can help students acquire the skills, training, and postsecondary credentials they need to thrive in the workplace. Here are some programs that studies show improved academic outcomes and increased earnings.
Children in low-income communities are less likely than others to attend programs that improve kindergarten readiness. MDRC has identified two ways to promote more equitable access: Make information about existing high-quality programs easier to understand and improve quality by investing in curricula and professional development.
A Synthesis of Findings on Sector Strategies
Job seekers with low incomes face numerous hurdles to finding and keeping high-quality jobs. Sector strategies address those hurdles by matching job seekers with skills training for specific industries or occupations where there is a growing demand. This review examines a cross-section of strategies, highlighting successes and areas for improvement.
What We Know and What We Are Learning
MDRC is leading several studies that measure the quality of early childhood education classrooms in innovative ways. This policy brief focuses on instructional quality, highlighting promising practices that seek to promote school readiness and sustained academic success among low-income children.
18-Month Impacts of the Grameen America Program
Grameen America is a microfinance institution that provides business loans to women in poverty in the United States. Results from a randomized controlled trial show the program increased business ownership and earnings, credit worthiness, and savings, and reduced material hardship among participants, but it did not increase overall net income.