Using Career Academies to help disadvantaged students: An interview with Jim Kemple, Executive Director, Research Alliance for New York City Schools – Episode #76

Career Academies are one of the biggest success stories among interventions designed to improve outcomes for high school-aged disadvantaged students. A rigorous evaluation, using a random-assignment design, showed that Career Academies boosted the earnings of participants by a sizable 11 percent in the eight years after graduation, with especially strong gains among young men. Moreover, the findings demonstrate the feasibility of improving labor market outcomes and school-to-work transitions without compromising academic standards or discouraging post-secondary education. Today several thousand schools have adopted the Career Academies approach across the nation.

To learn more, we’re joined by Jim Kemple, the founding Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University, a nonpartisan research center. He previously served as the Director of the K-12 Education Policy Area at MDRC where he served as the Principal Investigator for MDRC’s Career Academies Evaluation.

Web extra: Jim Kemple discusses two lessons for research from the Career Academies evaluation. [click here]

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Evidence-based policies that improve early-life health and wellbeing: An interview with Janet Currie, Professor, Princeton University – Episode #75

What early-childhood interventions have been shown by rigorous research to have lasting impacts on people’s health and wellbeing? To explore that question, we’re joined by Janet Currie, a leading expert on early-childhood interventions, including Head Start. She is a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and the director of Princeton’s Center for Health and Well Being. Her recent co-authored survey article in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management focuses on the early-life origins of people’s well being.

Topics covered in our discussion include WIC, home visiting programs, early-childhood programs including Head Start, the importance of early health on later life outcomes, and advice for policymakers about designing programs focused on early-life outcomes.

Web extra: Janet Currie discusses what she sees as a key gap in researchers’ abilities to understand the influences of early-life wellbeing: the lack of nationally representative data on children between birth and when they start school. [click here]

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Public sector innovation teams around the world: An interview with Jo Casebourne, Director of Public and Social Innovation, NESTA – Episode #74

How can city, regional or national governments use innovation initiatives – teams, units or funds – to catalyze innovation in the public sector? To gain insights into that question, we’re joined by Jo Casebourne (@jocasebourne), the Director of Public and Social Innovation at NESTA, the British innovation nonprofit. A recent report by NESTA and Bloomberg Philanthropies, called i-teams, presents case studies of 20 innovation initiatives around the world.

Those initiatives include five in the U.S.: the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund at the U.S. Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Boston, the New Orleans Innovation Delivery Team and two in New York City: the Center for Economic Development in the Mayor’s Office and the Innovation Zone (iZone) in the city’s Department of Education.

In the interview, Jo Casebourne discusses four focus areas of different innovation teams:

  • Creating solutions to solve specific challenges (e.g., UK Behavioral Insights Team)
  • Engaging citizens, non-profits and businesses to find new ideas (e.g., Seoul Innovation Bureau)
  • Transforming the processes, skills and culture of government (e.g., PS21 in Singapore)
  • Achieving wider policy and systems change (e.g., New York City Innovation Zone)
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Strategies to turn around a city government: An interview with Andy Kopplin, First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer, City of New Orleans – Episode #73

In 2010, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office, New Orleans faced many serious challenges, including the highest murder rate, widespread blight and a dysfunctional city government. Four years later, the city has undergone a remarkable turnaround, with a new culture of results-focused and data-driven government that emphasizes establishing clear strategies, setting specific goals and tracking those goals with data-driven “stat” (aka PerformanceStat) meetings. Those efforts have contributed to important improvements for citizens, including sizable reductions in homicides and blight.

To gain insights for other cities or jurisdictions aiming to tackle tough performance challenges, we’re joined by Andy Kopplin. He is the First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer of the City of New Orleans, under Mayor Mitch Landrieu. In his role, he oversees the day-to-day operational functions of City Hall.

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Creating a results focused city government: An interview with Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky – Episode #72

Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) of Louisville, Kentucky joins us to talk about creating a city government culture that is data driven and results focused. He is a former businessman and entrepreneur who was first elected mayor in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. He was named a “Public Official of the Year” by Governing Magazine in 2013, with the magazine noting, “At the heart of his performance efforts is a focus on data.” Under his leadership, Louisville has launched a PerformanceStat initiative called LouieStat, launched a 311 mobile app, implemented a new open-data policy and launched innovation delivery teams.

In the interview, Mayor Fischer also discusses his work to make Louisville a more compassionate city, including allowing city employees to take two hours of paid time each week to be a mentor.

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Improving education outcomes through innovative low-cost interventions, such as texting: An interview with Benjamin Castleman, Professor, University of Virginia – Episode #71

How can school district leaders, or other state and local education leaders, strengthen student outcomes through innovative low-cost interventions, such as through text messages?

To gain insights, we’re joined by Benjamin Castleman (@BenCastleman), a professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on how behavioral economics and social psychology can improve college access and other measures of success for low-income students.

Web extras: Benjamin Castleman discusses the many decisions that students and parents have to make, from early childhood through college and why those decision points can become bottlenecks — ones that low-cost interventions can help ameliorate. [click here] He also discusses this research on “summer melt” (the fact that a significant fraction of graduating low-income high school students who are planning to attend college that fall end up not going to college) and about low-cost interventions to reduce it. [click here]

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The federal evidence agenda & lessons for state/local leaders: An interview with Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution – Episode #70

What are the key themes of the Obama Administration’s evidence-based policy agenda around grant making and what can state and local leaders learn from those efforts to strengthen the use of evidence in their own jurisdictions?

We get perspective on those questions from Ron Haskins, the author (with Greg Margolis) of Show Me the Evidence: Obama’s Fight for Rigor and Results in Social Policy. The book describes the development and implementation of six evidence-based social policy initiatives undertaken by the Obama administration, spanning areas such as education, teen pregnancy, employment and training, and health. He also published a related opinion piece in the New York Times.

He is a former White House and congressional advisor on social policy issues. Today he is a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution where he co-directs the Center on Children and Families as well as the Budgeting for National Priorities Project.

Web extras: Ron Haskins discusses the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, one of the six evidence-based social policy initiatives he discusses in his book. [click here]

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Strengthening evidence-based grant making at the U.S. Department of Education: An interview with Jim Shelton, Deputy Secretary of Education – Episode #69

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has made important advances in encouraging evidence-based grant making, including focusing a larger share of discretionary (a.k.a. competitive) grant dollars on approaches backed by rigorous evidence of effectiveness and facilitating more evidence building among grantees. What lessons does the Department provide other public agencies at the federal, state and local levels in terms of strengthening evidence-based grant-making?

We explore that question with Jim Shelton (@JIMSEDU), the Deputy Secretary of Education, who has been a strong advocate for the greater use of evidence to learn and do what works. Previously he led the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department, managing a portfolio that included most of the Department’s competitive programs, including the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). Prior to that, he was the program director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Web extras: Jim Shelton discusses the type of incentives that can be used to encourage (or require) grant applicants to use or build evidence, including on the front end (at the application stage) and on the back end (program evaluation requirements). [click here]

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Five ways to bridge evidence-based policy & innovation: A video overview – Episode #68

Evidence-based policy and public sector innovation are sometimes seen as oppositional, but new efforts in the U.S. federal government have helped to bridge that divide, encouraging the use of both evidence and innovation. This brief video draws on that experience to provide five insights for federal, state and local policymakers.

Those insights include:

  • Ensure everyone (especially innovators) understands the value of rigorous program evaluation
  • Frame evidence-building as a tool for learning, not just an “up or down” verdict
  • Use a behavioral insights team to strengthen a culture of experimentation, even in parts of government that are not used to trying out new ways of operating.
  • Replace traditional grant programs with tiered-evidence grants, also known as innovation funds
  • Bridge “silos” within agencies by connecting experts to address key challenges
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How cities are using data to improve outcomes and save money: An interview with Stephen Goldsmith, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School – Episode #67

While there’s a lot of buzz about “big data” these days, today’s interview looks beyond the buzz to examine concrete examples of how leading cities are using data and analytics to produce tangible improvements to outcomes and save money. These cities are linking data across agencies while protecting privacy, analyzing patterns and using predictive analytics, using data to target services or enforcement to get better results, and maintaining a strong focus on outcomes and not just activities.

To learn more, we’re joined by one of the nation’s experts on public management and leadership. Stephen Goldsmith (@GoldsmithOnGov) has served as the Mayor of Indianapolis and as Deputy Mayor of New York City. He is currently a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he directs Data-Smart City Solutions initiative. His new book, co-authored by Susan Crawford, is The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance (also see the website).

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