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 COVID-19 upended normal operations at STRIVE, a workforce development nonprofit founded in New York, the Center for Applied Behavioral Science at MDRC documented the agency’s real-time innovations that allowed it to continue serving clients during the crisis. Greg Wise, STRIVE’s National Vice President, shared a first-hand account of the transition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many schools are using technology-based tools to generate career recommendations and supplement the capabilities of their guidance departments. MDRC has partnered with two technology companies to test whether their career-advising software programs are viable tools for equitably supporting students as they identify and pursue future careers.
Expanded eligibility guidelines and flexible funding options can support wider access to child care during the COVID-19 emergency, but only if parents and child care workers know how to navigate them. Agencies can use behavioral science research insights to make communications clear and concise and simplify the application process.
Promising Results from a Bridge-to-College Model
Bridge-to-college programs aim to help people complete high school and enroll in postsecondary education. This evaluation of one such program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, WI finds that it helped more students earn their GEDs and enroll in college courses.