NYC’s small high schools initiative: An interview with Rebecca Unterman, MDRC – Episode #7

Rebecca UntermanRebecca Unterman is a research associate at MDRC and coauthor (with Howard Bloom) of MDRC’s four-year impact study of New York City’s “small schools of choice,” an evaluation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as other philanthropies.

As background, during the past decade New York City undertook a large scale high school reform effort that involved closing 23 large failing high schools and opening more than 200 new small high schools – each with different missions, structures, and student selection criteria. At the heart of the reform were 123 small, academically nonselective public high schools. MDRC researchers call them “small schools of choice” (SSC) because of their small size and the fact that they do not screen students based on their academic backgrounds.

MDRC’s evaluation uses random assignment (lotteries of students into schools), allowing it to rigorously estimate the effects of enrolling in an SSC versus enrolling in some other New York City public high school. With a sample size of over 21,000 students, it is a large-scale study and one that has important implications for education reform in the U.S.

Web extra: Rebecca Unterman explains MDRC’s next steps in its evaluation of small schools of choice in New York City [click here].

Comprehensive early childhood services through Smart Start in North Carolina: An interview with Stephanie Fanjul, Smart Start – Episode #6

Stephanie FanjulStephanie Fanjul is the Executive Director of Smart Start in North Carolina. Smart Start was created in 1993 by Governor Jim Hunt as an innovative way to tackle an important problem: Children were coming to school unprepared to learn. A related challenge was that childcare in North Carolina was poorly financed, fragmented, and often low quality.

Now almost 20 years later, Smart Start provides funding to local programs that serve children under 6 and their families in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Its annual budget is around $200 million – mostly state funds, with about 10% raised privately. It’s been called the most ambitious large-scale effort to build a comprehensive system of early childhood services in the United States.

Web extras: 

  • Stephanie Fanjul gives her advice to state officials elsewhere in the U.S. who may be interested in starting an initiative like Smart Start [click here].
  • She describes the role of the business community in Smart Start [click here].

StateStat in Maryland: An interview with Beth Blauer, State of Maryland – Episode #5

Beth BlauerStateStat is part of a broader, growing movement of “Stat” initiatives. It all started in the early 1990s when the New York City Policy Department, under William Bratton, launched CompStat. Martin O’Malley took the idea to the city level as mayor of Baltimore with CitiStat — an initiative that won the 2004 Innovations in American Government award.

When O’Malley became Governor in 2007, he launched StateStat. State agencies come to StateStat meetings twice a month, on average, reviewing their performance and discussing efforts to improve their results.

StateStat - 2012 (photo by Andy Feldman)At the time of this interview, Beth Blauer was the Director of StateStat in Maryland for Governor Martin O’Malley. In her role she oversaw the StateStat process, covering 14 state agencies that comprise 85% of the state budget. A Maryland native and a lawyer by training, she served in Maryland state government for a decade and was StateStat’s director since 2008. In August 2012 she left Maryland government to begin a new role in the private sector.

Metro area’s key role in economic growth and policies to advance that growth: An interview with Bruce Katz, Brookings Institution – Episode #4

Bruce KatzBruce Katz is a vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. He regularly advises public leaders on policy reforms that advance the competitiveness of metropolitan areas. He has served in several senior roles in government including as a top aid to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Designing performance standards and incentives for public programs: An interview with Carolyn Heinrich, University of Texas at Austin – Episode #3

Carolyn Heinrich is a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and the Director of their Center for Health and Social Policy. Her research focuses on social welfare policy, public management, and social-program evaluation. Prior to her appointment at the University of Texas in 2011, she was the Director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Our interview focuses on The Performance of Performance Standards (Upjohn Institute Press, 2011) co-edited by Dr. Heinrich, James Heckman, Pascall Courty, Gerald Marschke and Jeffrey Smith. It provides insights into the effects of incentives and accountability systems by studying the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), a national employment and training program that operated in the 1980s and 1990s and one of the first large scale programs with sophisticated performance standards and incentives.

Helping workers find and keep good jobs: An interview with Harry Holzer, Georgetown University – Episode #2

holzerWhat are the some of the key longer-term trends in job quality and dynamics in the U.S. and what are the implications for U.S. workers? To explore that topic, we’re joined by a leading expert on those topics, Harry Holzer. He is a Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University and the former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. He has written widely on the topic of low-wage labor markets and, in particular, the problems of minority workers in urban areas. He is also the co-author of the book Where are all the good jobs going?, published by the Russell Sage Foundation.

Education, poverty, and student outcomes: An interview with Helen Ladd, Duke University – Episode #1

How can a better understanding of the connections between educational outcomes and poverty help policymakers and educators to design more effective strategies to help all students succeed, particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds? To explore that question, we’re joined by Helen Ladd. She is a Professor of Public Policy Studies and a Professor of Economics at Duke University and an expert on education policy. She also recently concluded her term as president of the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM).

In the interview, she discusses the arguments presented in her closing address as APPAM President, entitled “Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence.” She also has a recent New York Times op-ed on the same subject. Thank you to Professor Ladd for being our inaugural Gov Innovator blog interview!