Student Reports

Spring 2016

Professors Douglas J. Besharov, Douglas Call, and Carl DeLorenzo


In Spring 2016, students worked with the Administration for Children and Families, DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Government Accountability Office, The Hilltop Institute, Maryland Department of Budget and Management, Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Montgomery County Correctional Facilities, Montgomery County Office of Health and Human Services, Montgomery County Office of the State's Attorney, New America Foundation, US Department of Education, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the US Department of Labor. Students performed a wide variety of analyses, including cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, policy analysis, performance measure development, process evaluation, and research synthesis.

The following are projects prepared by students. They are listed in order of clients.

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Local Government

District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education

1. Recruiting, Recovering, and Retaining Adult Learners. As of 2014, more than 60,000 DC residents 25 years and over had some college but no degree, which accounts for 14% of the DC population. DC is one of the top 5 states for postsecondary degree jobs.With more postsecondary graduates, DC can strengthen its workforce to sustain its economy. However, adult learners with some college credit in the Washington, D.C. area face multiple barriers in returning to college to complete their postsecondary credential.

The author was asked to research the best (or promising) methods to help adult students return to school and provide a robust program design for the District of Columbia. Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) as the state education agency, will be responsible for encouraging and providing pathways for these students. While OSSE will be faced with budget restrictions in the first four years of implementation, the proposed program will help disseminate basic information to prospective adult students. The second phase of implementation will be the core of the program and will be similar to programs across the country that are experiencing success. This program will bring Washington, D.C. closer to the goal of higher adult degree attainment to keep up with the growing demand for postsecondary credentials. 

Paper Presentation

County Government

Montgomery County, Office of the State's Attorney

2. Outcome Evaluation of Montgomery County State's Attorney's Truancy Prevention Program. This report is an outcome evaluation that analyzes the pre- and post-program absences experienced by middle school students participating in the Fall 2015 Truancy Prevention Program sponsored by the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.  A comparison and analysis was made between the pre-program truancy rate and the post-intervention truancy rate for participating students.  The report analyzes the Truancy Prevention Program’s effect on the short-term outcome of truancy. 

Paper Presentation

Montgomery County Correctional Facilities

3. Montgomery County Correctional Facility's Volunteer Services Division: A Case Study. Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Maryland is a county jail that houses men, women, and juveniles and has a variety of rehabilitative programs for the inmates. Most of the rehabilitative programs are administered by volunteers who run religious programs, self-improvement programs, and recreational programs. These volunteers are a part of the Volunteer Services Division at the facility. This case study that was done on the division relied on interviews, observations, and data review in order to make recommendations on improving the division. From the study’s findings, it was clear that the volunteers and the inmates who participate in volunteer-led programming hold the division in high regard. The case study concludes with recommendations on how the division could improve the way in which it evaluates volunteer-led programs as well as some recommendations on the volunteer recruitment process.

Paper Presentation

4. Evaluation of Montgomery County Correctional Facility's Inmate Programs and Services Performance Measurements.  Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF) provides many services and programs to its inmate, which is the responsibility of the Inmate Programs and Services department.  Inmate Programs and Services monitors its progress with performance measurements.  Interviews and research was conducted to evaluate the performance measurements, which led to several recommendations on how to improve the performance measurements; both what MCCF should continue to do and what they can change.

Paper Presentation

Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services

5. Review of Montgomery County's Senior Nutrition Program. Seniors need good nutrition in order to maintain a high quality of life, but they also face many obstacles in obtaining proper nutrition as they age. The Senior Nutrition Program in Montgomery County aims to mitigate many of these challenges faced by seniors by offering nutritious meals to County residents aged 60 and older both in congregate settings and through home-delivery programs for homebound or disabled seniors. This spring, the Senior Nutrition Program was due for an evaluation by the County’s Department of Health and Human Services.

My project consisted of two main components. First, I conducted a critical review of the documents the Department of Health and Human Services uses to evaluate all of its programs. Second, I assisted in conducting a thorough review of the Senior Nutrition Program throughout a three-day Community Review process set up by the Department. This review involved in-person interviews with program staff and volunteers, as well as an assessment of internal and public program documents. Through this review, I analyzed the performance measures of the program and used them to critically assess the operations of the program. My recommendations to the Senior Nutrition Program focused on improving upon their existing performance measures and suggesting additional measures to implement in the future. I also provided recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services on improvements to their assessment documents and the Community Review structure.

Paper Presentation

State Government

The Hilltop Institute

6. Policy Analysis on the State Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Scorecard: What Can Low Ranking States Do to Improve Performance? With an aging population, changing demographics, the rising cost of LTSS, and tight federal and state budgets, there is a growing national concern about LTSS for both consumers and policy makers to ensure that the elderly, people with disabilities, and their caregivers are receiving quality and affordable health care.  This paper analyzes the second edition of the LTSS Scorecard, a multidimensional approach to measure state-level performance of LTSS systems and determine which performance measures low ranking states should implement in order to improve their LTSS systems. Several recommendations are made for states, with a focus on affordable private insurance for LTSS, reliability of Medicaid as a safety net, the use of managed care and home community based services versus reliance on institutions, implementing effective Aging and Disability Resource Center, ensuring effective transitions between care settings, and establishing a strong caregivers support system.

Paper Presentation

Maryland Department of Budget and Management

7. Analysis of Medicaid MLTSS Programs: Considerations for Expanding MLTSS in Maryland. The aging demographic of America places increased financial burden on state Medicaid expenditures, as the vast majority of elderly and/or disabled individuals require long-term services and supports (LTSS) and are unable to afford the services independently. Upon request of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, this analysis addresses the concerns surrounding the disproportionate share of Medicaid LTSS expenditures within the operating budget, and provides policy options being pursued by other states to address similar concerns. Many states have implemented capitated payment structures, referred to as managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS). Additionally, other states have implemented care coordination efforts to improve fluidity of care for those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. Though the variance and infancy these programs makes comparison difficult, key lessons from other states should be applied in Maryland to ensure development of a targeted program with limited barriers to implementation. 

Paper Presentation

 

Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention

8. Exploring Alternative Methods of Serving Mentally Ill Individuals in the Maryland Criminal Justice System. This report is to serve as a policy analysis of current and future policies being enacted by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) in Maryland with regard to serving the mentally ill population in the criminal justice system. Individuals with mental illnesses face specific challenges within the criminal justice system at the state level as well as the federal level. This is further exacerbated by the overrepresentation of the mentally ill population within the criminal justice system, at estimated rates ranging from two to four times the general population.

In order to analyze this issue, the paper utilizes the Sequential Intercept Model, which is a conceptual framework for communities to use when considering the interface between the criminal justice and mental health systems. Through research, in-person interviews with stakeholders such as behavioral health specialists, law enforcement officers, jail administrators and others, and a small-sample survey, this report seeks to evaluate current and future policy options being pursued by the state in order to address the needs of mentally ill individuals in the criminal justice system. The paper delivers six recommendations for GOCCP and other relevant state offices. 

Paper Presentation

Federal Government

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

9. Childhood Obesity Among HUD-Assisted Children. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the primary agency responsible for developing and implementing housing policies and programs. Recently, HUD expanded agency priorities to include utilizing housing as a platform to improve quality of life. The two research questions explored in this analysis are the following: 1. What is the relationship between HUD-rental assistance programs and childhood obesity? 2. How do obesity rates in children differ between children in households receiving HUD-rental assistance and similar children not receiving assistance?

This analysis found no conclusion to suggest that participation in HUD rental assistance programs has any effect on childhood obesity. Due to differences in the implementation of HUD programs, aggregated program evaluations were not optimal for assessing the impact of the programs on childhood health. Prior to conducting future analysis, the effect of the current program variations on child health should be further explored.

Paper Presentation

10. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Neighborhood Quality. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program is the largest federal program supporting the provision of affordable housing. This project set out to analyze a set of state Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs) and proposes a comprehensive set of neighborhood quality-related performance measures that could be used to identify the amenities in LIHTC neighborhoods and to see how LIHTC investment relates to neighborhood quality.

Paper Presentation

Administration for Children and Families

11. Case Study of a Head Start Program Serving Children Experiencing Homelessness. The University of Maryland School of Public Policy was approached by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) at ACF to conduct a case study of a Head Start and/or Early Head Start program. Although children experiencing homelessness have become a priority focus for Head Start, relatively little is known about how Head Start Programs recruit and serve homeless families. In order to better serve these children, they must be the focus of study so that their outcomes and opportunities can be improved. Head Start has seen increases in the enrollment of children experiencing homelessness, but it is not clear whether the programs are accurately identifying and enrolling these children or whether there is an overall increase in the incidence of homelessness for these children and their families. The student researcher for the case study answered four key research questions:

  1. How does the program recruit children experiencing homelessness?
  2. How does the program identify and track the housing status and the service needs of families?
  3. How does the program support families experiencing homelessness?
  4. What program-level features are in place to support staff serving children and families experiencing homelessness and what could the program do better to support staff? 

Paper Presentation

12. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program: Elements of High Quality Service Delivery. Families who are coping with complex living situations – such as poverty, mental health illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence – are at a higher risk of child maltreatment. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program was created to support at-risk pregnant women and families with young children by providing them with the resources needed to raise safe, healthy children. Before program standards can be developed for each home visiting model, there needs to be a greater understanding of the elements that may lead to high-quality service delivery. I examined five potential elements, namely: coordinated services, cultural competence, developmental screening and referrals, highly qualified home visitors, and home visitor caseload. Based on the available literature, each element has the potential to become a program standard. However, this is not a hard recommendation. The evidence from the literature suggests that more research is needed in each area in order to identify trends across different studies.

Paper Presentation

13. State Initiatives Through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge for Children Experiencing Homelessness. The Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education administer the Race-to-the-Top-Early-Learning-Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant to twenty states to promote improvements in early childhood education for high-needs children.  This report seeks to identify what is being done through this grant regarding children experiencing homelessness. Interviews were conducted with the only three states who have RTT-ELC initiatives for this demographic. Results from this study show a wide array of approaches between states. Examples of strategies implemented include child development training for shelter staff, coordination of services for families, and alterations to child care subsidy procedures to prioritize families experiencing homelessness. This research can be used to inform federal agencies on how to better administer future early education grants, as well as guide other states on how to provide early learning supports for children experiencing homelessness. 

Paper Presentation

14. Community Services Block Grant: A Look at Organizational Standards Implementation. The Community Services Block Grant works to mitigate poverty and promote self-sufficiency. It provides Federal money to states, which then distribute the money to local agencies, which provide services in their own communities. Over the past few years, there has been increasing pressure to improve the accountability of the program. In response to this pressure, the program developed organizational standards that would demonstrate that local agencies had the capacity to fulfill the mission of the program. FY 2016 was the first year the standards were implemented across the country. I was asked to interview five states to learn what challenges they faced, and what lessons they learned during the implementation process. The following paper provides a detailed description of their experience.

Paper Presentation

15. Accomplishments, Mitigating or Resilience Factors, and Promising Practices That Have Been Found to Reduce The Natural Disaster Burden on Children and Their Families. The following literature review analyzes thirteen, peer-reviewed articles and two documentaries, published between 1996 and 2016, in an effort to identify the accomplishments, mitigating or resilience factors, and promising practices that have been found to reduce the natural disaster burden on children and families. Areas examined include; Adjustment and Emotional Distress in Children, Natural Disaster Impacts on Schools, Therapeutic Practices Promoting Healing in Children, Policy Challenges in Reducing Risk for Families, Mitigation of Disaster Impacts Through Mental Health, Disabled Children as Vulnerable populations, the Policy and Politics of Disaster Management, Learning Directly from Disaster Impacted Families, the Influence of Politics on Vulnerability, African Americans, Latinos, and Impoverished Children, Partnering with Faith-Based Institutions to Reduce Risk and Promote Resilience, and a Multi-Sector Approach to Risk Management.

The material reviewed suggests a need for regulatory policies preventing development in disaster-prone areas, federal incentives that reward states and jurisdictions for instituting policies that mitigate the impacts of natural disasters on children and families, and a need for post-disaster interventions that follow a bottom-up rather than top-down approach to disaster management, promoting state and community-based initiatives that build knowledge in families and help them create plans for mitigating the effects of natural disasters.

Paper Presentation

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

16. Analysis of the Policy and Practice of High School Credit Recovery. Beginning in 2008, U.S. Department of Education regulations of No Child Left Behind required high schools to report on and be accountable for the four year cohort graduation rate.  Students who fail a course in high school are less likely to graduate on-time.  Credit recovery attempts to mitigate the risk for dropping out by helping students obtain credit for classes they have already failed.  School districts are increasingly using online or blended online/face-to-face models for credit recovery. The use of new models for credit recovery, a lack of available research, and decentralized policies and practices fuel the need for further research.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) requested a study of state-level policies and practices of credit recovery programs to understand more fully the breadth and scope credit of recovery programs in the United States and how current trends may generate potential management risks. 

The study utilizes data from peer-reviewed literature, public documents, secondary data analysis, and case study of policies and practices in three states.  The findings include information on the types of credit recovery programs, estimates of the number of participating students, the applicability of ESEA accountability requirements, funding mechanisms, and information on current research on the effects of credit recovery programs.  The analysis describes the potential for risks resulting from pressure to increase graduation rates, a lack of available data, and little to no state policies or guidance for credit recovery programs.  States may monitor these risks under Title I ESEA accountability policies or federal discretionary grant programs; however, recent audits and investigations suggest that current internal controls may be insufficient.  State education agencies may need to conduct an assessment of district policies and procedures for credit recovery programs to ensure that potential risks have been identified and mitigated. The varied use of delivery models within a state and the lack of reliable research makes the process of oversight more difficult.  Education should support continued research of best practices to assist states in developing policies and to assist districts in implementing programs which best serve the needs of students.

Paper Presentation

17. Unique Approaches to Retirement Savings by Foreign-Born American Workers: An Analysis. Previous literature suggests that legal, foreign-born workers in the U.S. face additional difficulties when saving for retirement than native-born workers do and, as a result, are not as financially prepared for retirement as native-born workers. Foreign-born legal workers accrue only a fraction of the retirement savings of native-born workers at retirement, controlling for income, education and other factors. The Government Accountability Office (GAO)—the auditing and investigative arm of the U.S. Congress—has not studied this issue. A GAO report could inform these foreign-born workers on how to better save for retirement, as well as provide information to policy makers on how to structure the retirement system to better benefit all workers in the U.S. This preliminary policy analysis will provide the GAO a scope and description of immigrant workers’ efforts to save for retirement and assist GAO’s future, deeper analyses to aid in eliminating the information gap regarding these workers' retirement challenges.
This study is designed to answer the following three research questions:

  1. To what extent do foreign-born immigrants participate in employer-sponsored pensions or other tax-preferred retirement savings accounts?
  2. What implications arise from the potential differences between these numbers and the numbers of native-born workers who participate?
  3. What unique challenges, if any, do foreign-born immigrants face when saving for retirement?

Paper Presentation

18. Longevity, Retirement Security, and Labor Force Attachment: Improving Access to Phased Retirement can help Americans Work Longer to Maintain Living Standards after Retirement. A recent GAO study found that many households approaching retirement age have low savings. A policy analysis was conducted to determine how Americans are ensuring retirement security in light of increasing life expectancy and what, if any, policies and practices deter older workers from continued work beyond the normal retirement age of 65. Household financial and labor force data revealed that Americans today save too little, accumulate too much debt, and have a smaller ratio of working years to retirement years than previous generations because of increased life expectancy, leaving many unable to support a 20-year retirement. To restore the ratio of work to retirement years, older Americans need to work later in life than previous generations, which can already be seen in a gradual long-term trend toward longer work—the labor force participation rate for people ages 65 and over has climbed form 10.8 percent in the 1980s to 18.9 percent in 2015. However, older Americans do face barriers to continued work, including:

  1. Rigidity of tax code, ERISA, and 401(k) rules limiting employers’ abilities to offer phased retirement
  2. Inflexible work arrangements regardless of older workers preferences for part-time employment
  3. Incentives for both employers and older workers in defined benefit plan provisions
  4. Social Security and Medicare eligibility rules, and the secondary payer status of Medicare for beneficiaries with an employer provided group health plan
  5. Age discrimination and the burden of proof set by Gross v. FBL Financial Services
  6. Physical limitations of older workers—one-third of older Americans reported having a disability in 2014

To promote continued work among older Americans, the final recommendation is to remove barriers to phased retirement by relaxing the rules governing in-service distributions of retirement funds.

Paper Presentation

U.S. Department of Labor

19. Promoting Economic Mobility for African American Women Through Investments in Entrepreneurship. Empowering African American women through investments in their entrepreneurship is a key strategy for promoting mobility for them, their families, and their communities as a whole. Through primary and secondary research, it has been discovered that limited access to capital and resources has prohibited the expansion and scaling of African American womens’ businesses and though these needs are covered somewhat by local business development and entrepreneurship programs, even these entities lack the capacity to support African American women’s major business needs. Intervention made by the Department of Labor in the form of grants to business development programs catering primarily to African American women would increase their business growth opportunities, allowing them to earn sustainable wages, hire workers, and reinvest in their communities, thus improving their economic status.

Paper Presentation

U.S. Department of Education

20. The Policies and Practices of Virtual Schools. As educators and school systems work to include the latest technologies in their classrooms and across their states, the number of virtual schools, and the students served by them, has greatly increased. The Common Core of Data (CCD) is the United States Department of Education’s annual collection of data on public elementary and secondary schools. For the 2013-14 school year, a flag indicating virtual schools was added to the CCD. Each state responded to the question posed as to the number of virtual schools they have with a total number of virtual schools in their stat. In examining the 2013-2014 state responses, ten states reported virtual schools as not applicable. Furthermore, twenty-one states responded that they did not have any virtual schools. Based on the research and general knowledge that the CCD has on schools, the agency knew this was incorrect. So a question arose as to why states did not answer correctly or account for their virtual schools. The purpose of this project was to more closely examine the virtual schools data that is collected within and for the CCD. A thorough assessment of virtual schools in various states was necessary to know which flags and questions the CCD should ask each jurisdiction. This assessment included an overview of public, charter and virtual schools in five states, a summary of the findings, and recommendations for the U.S. Department of Education’s flag for the collection of CCD data.

Paper Presentation

21. Common Core Implementation in Early Adopter States looks at three states (Kentucky, Maryland, and New York) to determine how they implemented the Common Core State Standards. Using research, data, and interviews with key state education leaders, this project rates success in four criteria: professional development, curriculum and assessments, teacher evaluations, and communication strategy. Working with the Department of Education, the goal of this project was to determine not only how states are implementing Common Core but also what discrepancies occur across districts and states as well as what the federal government can do to monitor resources and assist with implementation. The results were striking as each state dealt with implementation in different ways resulting in successes, failures, and lessons learned; this provided suggestions for how the federal government can help other states with Common Core implementation. 

Paper Presentation

22. An Analysis of the Current Issues Providing Food to Preschool Children in Louisiana.This paper is an exhaustive study and analysis on the current problems providing food to preschool children in Louisiana.  The issues have been a result of the preschool expansion grant placing public preschool programs in child care center classrooms.  This has caused problems because children attending the preschool programs in public schools are receiving a different lunch benefit than children attending child care centers.  In public schools, children can be eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).  However, children attending a public preschool program in child care centers are only eligible to participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Paper Presentation

Nongovernmental

New America Foundation

23. Implementing Immersion: Delaware's World Language Expansion Initiative. Working in partnership with New America's Dual Language Learner (DLL) National Work Group, this project is a implementation analysis and case study of Delaware’s World Language Expansion Initiative and a specific program aimed at expanding dual language immersion across the state. Proposed in 2011, the World Language Expansion Initiative makes immersion language instruction available to students beginning in kindergarten and expands language instruction to students across K-12. The report provides information on the initial implementation of the immersion program as well as its background and design and the political and social context in the state. It also attempts to measure the success of the Initiative against stated goals. The information was gathered through a review of available literature, primary documents of the Initiative, and interviews with relevant stakeholders including Delaware Department of Education staff, school principals and immersion team teachers.  

Paper Presentation



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