Forty percent of all entering college students and over half of entering community college students must take at least one remedial course. Fewer than half make it through developmental education. This two-page Looking Forward memo provides an overview of research evidence in four areas of developmental education reform.
Findings from Family Rewards 2.0
A program in Memphis and the Bronx offered cash incentives, coupled with family guidance, to poor families for meeting certain health care, education, and work milestones. The program increased income and reduced poverty, increased dental visits and health status, reduced employment somewhat, and had few effects on students’ education.
A Conditional Cash Transfer Program in Two American Cities
This program spent a little over a dollar to transfer one dollar in cash rewards to families who met the required benchmarks. These rewards produced positive effects on some outcomes, but left others unchanged. While the program benefited participating families, the cost to taxpayers exceeded the economic value of these effects.
What Worked, What Didn’t
Family Rewards offered cash incentives to low-income families to reduce both current and longer-term poverty, contingent on families’ efforts to build up their “human capital” through children’s education, preventive health care, and parents’ employment. While the program produced some positive effects on some outcomes, it left many outcomes unchanged.
Early Lessons from Family Rewards 2.0
This project builds on NYC’s earlier experiment with a conditional cash transfer program to reduce poverty and improve education, health, and employment outcomes. It tests a revised model in the Bronx and Memphis, adding family guidance to modified incentives paid more frequently. Early implementation findings suggest deeper family engagement.
The Importance of Evidence
In this essay, adapted from remarks made to the Growth Philanthropy Network/Social Impact Exchange 2014 Conference on Scaling Impact, MDRC President Gordon Berlin explains why developing reliable evidence of effectiveness is critical when expanding programs to a large scale.
An Impact Study of Eight Developmental Summer Bridge Programs in Texas
Eight developmental summer bridge programs offered accelerated and focused learning opportunities for entering college students with low skills in Texas. An evaluation shows positive impacts on introductory college-level course completion in math and writing, which faded by the end of two years. The programs had no impact on persistence or the average number of credits students attempted or earned.
An Implementation and Early Impacts Study of Eight Texas Developmental Summer Bridge Programs
For entering college students with low basic skills, eight intensive summer programs provided accelerated instruction in math, reading, and/or writing; academic support; a “college knowledge” component; and the opportunity to receive a $400 stipend. Early results suggest that participants were more likely to pass entry-level college courses in math and writing.