A recent (virtual) discussion with representatives of 13 schools, districts, and programs that provide work-based learning found each of them seizing unexpected opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The pivot from hands-on experiential learning to virtual instruction is varied and evolving at these organizations, which offer internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and other work-related programs.
Higher Achievement, which serves fifth- through eighth-graders, is an effective after-school and summer program that improved middle school students’ math and reading test scores and the academic quality of many students’ high schools. These short-term gains did not translate into impacts on the types of colleges that students attended.
Adapting the Evidence for 2020 and Beyond
MDRC has studied a number of strategies for helping students stay in college and succeed there. Lessons from some of these models may be readily adapted to support students and close equity gaps now and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This Issue Focus offers three lessons taken from MDRC’s evaluations.
Next Steps for Research
The paper summarizes past and ongoing research, identifies gaps in knowledge, and presents four categories of potential questions to help define future research in employment and training programs serving low-income people.
Practical Advice from Richard Guare and Colin Guare
This Issue Focus offers guidance to social service programs seeking to help participants progress toward their goals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Techniques are described for alleviating social isolation, communicating remotely, setting and achieving goals, getting medication, assessing workplace safety, applying for public benefits, working from home, and managing grief.
Assessing Higher Achievement’s Out-of-School Expansion Efforts
The intensive program for middle school students was successfully replicated in three new cities, significantly improving grades after two years. The findings suggest that Higher Achievement could be a model nationwide to help close the learning gap between children born into poverty and their middle-class peers.
Semistructured interviews involve an interviewer asking some prespecified, open-ended questions, with follow-up questions based on what the interviewee has to say. This Reflections on Methodology post describes a semistructured interview protocol recently used to explore how children who experience poverty perceive their situations, their economic status, and public benefit programs.
Implementation researchers can be good partners to program operators at this difficult time — by being sensitive to the new constraints that programs face, by assessing how learning agendas and evaluation plans need to change, and by helping programs learn from the adaptations they are making in response to the pandemic.
Three Insights from Research
The COVID-19 pandemic means community colleges cannot administer in-person tests to determine whether students must take developmental (remedial) courses. But some colleges were already using multiple pieces of information for course placement, rather than a single test score. This brief offers three relevant insights from research on these placement systems.
Here are MDRC’s Top Five Tips for social service and educational programs adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. They focus on ensuring staff members’ and participants’ personal safety so that agencies can continue providing high-quality services and support while working remotely. They also include guidance on protecting participant confidentiality.