Student Reports

Spring 2019

Professors Douglas Besharov, Douglas Call, and Carl DeLorenzo


In Spring 2019, students worked with the Howard County Office of Transportation, the Montgomery County Government, the Hilltop Institute of UMBC, the Treasurerís Office of Frederick County, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services's, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education, Communities in Schools, the Kalanidhi Dance, the Prince Georgeís County Social Innovation Fund, Sitar Arts, the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Office of Capital Budgeting, The Higher Education Licensure Commission. Students performed a wide variety of analyses, including needs assessment, performance measure development, policy analysis, process evaluation, and program design assessment.

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

Note: The associated files are best viewed using Adobe Reader. To get the software, go to http://get.adobe.com/reader/




County Government

Howard County Office of Transportation

1. A Cost Benchmark Analysis of the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland (RTA) in Howard County. The Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland (RTA) was established to create a more effective and efficient public transit system across Central Maryland. This cost benchmark analysis aims to determine if the RTA is adequately funded by Howard County to fulfill service performance expectations within the county, which is about 80 percent of the regional system. To answer this research question, service performance goals were set using the countyís stated goals and industry standards. Each performance goal was then provided associated metrics. Certain metrics were then included in a cost benchmark analysis of similar transit agencies. Targets were informed by the benchmarking, recommendations from the Maryland Transit Administration, and industry standards. This analysis found that there is a moderately strong, positive correlation between performance and operating costs. Based on this research, it is recommended that Howard County increase funding for the RTA by approximately $14,000,000 for fixed-route service and approximately $2,400,000 for paratransit service.

Paper Presentation

Montgomery County Government

2.  Montgomery County Government: Division of the Controller Travel and Expense Analysis. This project will analyze and present findings on the travel and expense management processes and software in use by the Montgomery County Government. Furthermore, this project will analyze two software and management platforms for potential implementation by the County of Montgomery: Certify and Concur. This analysis will be both qualitative and quantitative to ideally reach a wholistic analysis of the current travel and expense management practices of Montgomery County and whether Montgomery County should implement one of the two analyzed software platforms. The two platforms were previously selected for investigation by the County of Montgomery and are industry leaders in travel and expense management. The analysis of these two entities is purely based on the value they provide to Montgomery County Government.

Paper Presentation

The Hilltop Institute of UMBC

3.  Financial Transparency in Maryland Healthcare to Facilitate Price Shopping. Despite growing acknowledgement of the need for greater transparency in the current health system, change has been slow-moving. There is a high demand for price transparency as consumers of health insurance shoulder greater cost-sharing responsibility and have plans with higher deductibles. Access to price and quality information in healthcare is essential for consumers to make more informed health decisions and to allow them to compare costs and performance across various providers, hospitals and medical facilities. Transparency tools are mechanisms that allow consumers and providers to identify information that includes cost estimates, network status of providers, consumer out-of-pocket responsibility, and quality among other indicators. Existing state-sponsored transparency tools are publicly accessible but are not often utilized. The data reported by these tools is extremely varied and the tools themselves are not always easily decipherable by the average consumer. In 2018, the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) launched a transparency tool called WearTheCost to inform Marylanders of average costs of four common care services, but it lacks essential quality and price indicators to make it a comprehensive and reliable tool. To improve the range and quality of data reported on WearTheCost or another Maryland state-sponsored tool, the following is recommended: (1) Price and quality information be standardized to reduce discrepancies in data collection and reporting; (2) Maryland health insurers, providers, hospitals, and other stakeholders should coordinate to define and provide requirements for data collection and reporting of price and quality data; and (3) providers and insurers should encourage consumer use of tools by informing them of their existence and utility during clinical encounters and during enrollment.

Paper Presentation

Treasurerís Office of Frederick County

4. Cryptocurrency Acceptance For The Purposes Of Tax Payment In Local Government: Frederick County, MD. In partnership with the Treasurerís Office of Frederick County, MD, this paper conducts a policy analysis to determine ďWhether local governments should implement the acceptance of cryptocurrency for payment of taxes and fees?Ē Works consulted for this report include, but are not limited to independent study of blockchain and crypto from 2016, ICMA/GFOA whitepaper on blockchain technology, case studies of municipalities utilizing crypto/blockchain, and a variety of websites highlighting crypto use cases and crypto applicability.

Paper

State Government

The Higher Education Licensure Commission (HELC)

5. Gap In Post-Secondary Offerings and Occupational Demand. The Higher Education Licensure Commission (HELC) within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education of Washington, DC is charged with the duty of ensuring the quality and availability of post-secondary educational and training opportunities for residents of the district. One of the many responsibilities of the HELC is to ensure the Mayor and Council of the District of Columbia of the postsecondary needs which arise and persist within the area. Essential to assessing these needs is understanding the labor market conditions which dictate the necessity of relevant competencies. This is a topic of concern important not only to DC, but to localities across the nation. Many post-secondary licensure and approval committees are left in the dark as to whether or not the programs available, especially for mid-skill level workers, were meeting labor market demand. It is because of these uncertainties that it is important to pursue more information. The primary research question for this project therefore is, are there sufficient postsecondary offerings available as a pipeline(s) to feed labor market demand? This question can be broken down into two components: the labor market and post-secondary match.

Paper Presentation

The Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC)

6. Community College Enrollment and the Maryland College Promise. The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) is the coordinating board for higher education in the state, including the sixteen public community colleges. New facilities are large investments and expected to service each institution for many years. Picking which building projects to take on requires having the most accurate understanding of future enrollment. The Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship Program will provide tuition assistance for students in Fall of 2019. To understand future enrollment at Marylandís community colleges, government officials, academics, and the institutions themselves must grapple with the volatile environment and have a holistic view of how all these factors affect the demand for higher education. The purpose of this work is twofold: to analyze current projection models for community college and to increase an awareness of the changing trends in community college, especially the effect of college promise scholarship programs.

Paper Presentation

The Maryland Court of Appeals

7. Implied Preemption in State and Local Law. In recent years, the Maryland appellate courts have invoked the doctrine of implied preemption several times to strike down local laws. Such findings are often controversial and have broad implications for the relationship between the state and its local governments. Two recent Maryland cases attracting attention deal with local authorities to regulate zoning for commercial solar farms, and whether counties have the authority to regulate pesticide application within their boundaries. Implied preemption at the state and local level will be the focus of this paper. To better understand implied preemption and how it might be curtailed, I pursued the following research questions: What is the scope of intrastate implied preemption in the courts?; What states have limitations on implied preemption of local laws, what form do these take, and how did they come about?; What options are available to organizations seeking to curb implied preemption in state courts?

Paper Presentation

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management (DBM)

8. Tax Revenue Analysis: Sale of Marijuana for Recreational Use. Creating an accurate estimate for marijuana tax revenue has proven to be a difficult challenge. Experts from across the country are predicting how much money their states will raise in tax revenue, but the unpredictability of the market has made this an increasingly challenging task. While it is a challenge, it is important for taxpayers and policy makers to understand the potential impact of legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana for recreational use. This report looks at the history of legalization at the state level, the tax types states have implemented, and other statesí revenue forecast models. Finally, this report creates a tax revenue forecast for Maryland by estimating demand and price based on similar legalized states, by using data on marijuana consumption in the state, and by assuming a 15% excise tax on all sales.

Paper Presentation

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

9. Ensuring Accessibility to Training for CoC Homelessness Service Providers in Maryland The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has identified potential deficiencies in care and services regarding a multitude of topics of skills and services provided by homelessness service providers. Using the needs assessment, DHCD wanted a review of the current training available to service providers in the state, what training opportunities are missing throughout the state, and what should be done to fulfill these gaps in services. DHCD also sought to determine what relevant topics each Continuum of Care (CoC) would like more training on, as well as determine the feasibility of implementing such training based on CoCís preferences for training facilitation. The research questions for evaluating the scope and contexts of this problem are as follows: What are the gaps in service provider training for each of the service topics (listed below) for each CoC?; Are there any free or low-cost options for training for service providers that are available or already being utilized? and What are the training preferences and priorities for each CoC?

Paper Presentation

The Maryland Office of Capital Budgeting

10. Veterans Home Expansion Plan. The primary purpose of this report is to assess the need for a new veteran home in Maryland. The Maryland Office of Capital Budgeting indicated three questions that are of concern when considering the development of another veteranís home: Does the state of Maryland need another veteranís facility? How many beds to include in the new facility? Where should the new facility be placed? The methodology used centered around identifying key contributing factors in each section. Determining need was based on three criteria: the increasing diversity in demographics, a greater need for more affordable long- term care, and the shortcomings of the current facility. The section examining need relies heavily on census information. Due to the existing facility being outdated, it fails to service some people. The recommended style of the facility follows the guidelines set forth by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The locations are ranked based on access to amenities such as hospitals and demographics. In addition to determining the need, facility style, and location, examples from other states are provided. South Carolina, Michigan, and Nebraska are presented because they are currently in the process of building new state ran veteransí homes.

Paper Presentation

11. Analysis of Marylandís Facility Renewal Strategy, An evaluation of the FY 2020 Capital Improvement Plan and Deferred Maintenance Backlog. In this analysis, we examined the likely impact of Marylandís FY 2020 Capital Improvement Plan on the stateís reported deferred maintenance backlog. The cost of deferred maintenance projects at state-owned facilities has grown steadily over the past ten years, and is expected to exceed $2.5 billion by 2023. Meanwhile, Marylandís funding for capital facilities renewal and critical maintenance projects improved from $38 million in FY 2018 to $75 million per year for FY 2020 but is set to decline to $57 million the following year. We sought to determine: will this moderate improvement in long-term funding decrease the stateís deferred maintenance backlog? In this analysis, we support recent Department of General Services efforts to begin collecting information on the FCI of the facilities they manage. We also support and recommend the creation of an ďin-houseĒ assessment team to can provide more accurate maintenance assessments than are currently available from facilities managers. The justification for this move is that facilities managers lack an incentive to accurately assess their maintenance needs and may also lack the expertise of an independent authority. Both actions are currently being pursued by DGS at the request of the state, with a first FCI report due June 2020.

Paper Presentation

Federal Government

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

12. Measuring Quality, Not the Ability to Comply, Prepared for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In partnership with CMSís Division of Electronic and Clinician Quality (DECQ), I assess what is known about the Merit-based Incentive Payment Program (MIPS) to identify potential improvements. MIPS is a complicated performance measurement program. Therefore, I focus on the experience of small groups of clinicians and that of internal medicine clinicians to narrow the scope of my research questions. To inform my research I reviewed the academic literature on performance measurement and management; queried CMS data; interviewed external stakeholders and CMS employees charged with implementing MIPS; and attended health care conferences in the DC area. These actions led to four recommendation. 1) CMS, with stakeholder input, should tell clinicians what quality measures to report on based on clinician specialty or sub-specialty. 2) CMS should require clinicians to report data quarterly. This will allow for timely feedback and facilitate single and double loop learning. 3) An overreliance on process measures can reduce the intrinsic motivation of a highly skilled workforce. CMS should work with the measurement community to develop more sophisticated outcome measures. 4) Transition from using pay for performance to incentive quality toward leveraging intrinsic motivation.

Paper Presentation

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

13. Analysis of the Support and Opposition for the Department of Laborís Conflict of Interest Rule Package. The conflict of interest rule package was proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) under President Obama to ensure that anyone providing investment advice for retirement investors put their clientsí interests first by cracking down on conflicts of interests among financial advisors. Here the concern is that retirement investors were losing money because advisors were making recommendations to clients based more on the financial interests of the advisors than on maximizing returns for their client. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) lacks a good understanding of the arguments for and against the rule package because they generally avoid getting involved as regulations move through the rulemaking process or when rules are litigated in court. Additionally, the rule package received over 3,000 comments during the public comment period; the GAO, by its own admission, lacks the resources to evaluate the comments. The GAO believes that the subject matter addressed by the rule package and wants a better understanding of the arguments surrounding the rule package to provide insight for future policy debates. This study will examine two sets of questions to provide such insight: Who was for and against the rule package? Did anyone take a position that was not in their financial interest? and What were the main arguments for and against the rule package? What were their strengths and weaknesses?

Paper Presentation

14. A Process Evaluation of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). This paper conducts a process evaluation that will ascertain: What steps did state partners take to promote their D-SNAP operations in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2017?; What challenges, if any, did disaster survivors face in applying for D-SNAP in the applicable states in FFY17? And what steps did state partners take to prevent D-SNAP fraud in FFY17? The scope of this process evaluation was limited to D-SNAP operations conducted in FFY17 because it was the most recent fiscal year with complete data subject to the most recently issued. The methodology had 3 parts Ė process mapping, document review of FOIA-requested documents, and interviews with state agencies.

Paper Presentation

15. Analysis of State Standardized Tests and State Report Cards. The purpose of this analysis is to understand the types of general assessments states use to test students in mathematics, English Language Arts (ELA), and science, the kinds of publicly available information that may exist on these tests, and how states are using tests to help measure school and student outcomes. To address these topics, I conducted a current literature review, systematic state report card analysis of ten states that differ in terms of standardized tests, population, and geographically, and field interviews with state education agencies (SEAs).

Paper Presentation

16. Opioid Addiction and Abuse in School Age Students: Leading causes, identifiable trends, and possible responses to the opioid crisis among Americaís youth. The purpose of this report was to address the following two research questions regarding opioid addiction and abuse in school age students: 1. What are the leading causes of opioid addiction in school age students and how are school districts and states responding to the crisis? 2. Are there identifiable data trends that link specific indicators to states and districts with high levels of student opioid abuse and addition? To answer these questions, I performed a policy analysis concluding in a set of four potential policy recommendations and three future studies recommendations for the GAO to consider in their continuing work on opioids in the school age (11-18 years old) population. This policy analysis occurred through a project process of a literature review, data collection and statistical analysis, and stakeholder interviews.

Paper Presentation

U.S. Department of Education

17. Implementation Evaluation: Statewide High School Assessments under the Every Student Succeeds Act. A requirement for States that receive Federal funding under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is that States must assess all students in reading/language arts, mathematics, and science at least once in high school with the same assessment. Some State legislatures and State Boards of Education have implemented policies that do not align with this Federal requirement, especially over the past five years. The key research questions for my Policy Engagement Project ask, what is the current status of required Federal assessments for high school students in States, and what are statesí current practices and preferences?

Paper Presentation

Office of Civil Rights

18. Research Review of Statesí Reporting Requirements for Students with Disabilities Parentally Placed in Private Schools. The U.S. Department of Educationís Office of Civil Rights (OCR) would like more knowledge on the experiences of students with disabilities who are placed in non-public or private schools. OCR collects data using the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). This project aims to answer the following questions: What are states currently reporting on students with disabilities placed in private/nonpublic schools? Should the federal government require states to report on students placed in private/nonpublic schools? After summarizing my overall findings, I looked at states that place particularly high or low numbers of students in the following categories: (a) separate schools, residential facilities, and correctional facilities combined; and (b) parentally placed in private schools, to see if they have any policies that impact reporting on this topic.1 After selecting these states, I searched each stateís department of education website, for information on their policies for reporting data on these students. I identified specific items that SEAs require schools to report beyond IDEA Part B reporting requirements to provide OCR with a list of these items to include in the CRDC.

Paper Presentation

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Care

19. Increased Federal Child Care Funding: Stories of Impact. The Increased Federal Child Care Funding: Stories of Impact research project for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Office of Child Care (OCC) is a case study analysis exploring how selected states are using or used increased Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) dollars from the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Case studies are in-depth investigations and descriptions of a single unit(s), such as an individual, or for the purpose of this project, states. OCC is interested in learning how states have used increased funding to first, illustrate and understand how increased CCDF dollars are benefiting states, communities, families, children, and providers, and second, to potentially better inform policymakers about the impact of CCDF dollars. The research questions include: 1. What were the decision-making processes states used to determine how funds were used? ; 2. What influenced statesí decision-making processes?; 3. What policies, initiatives, programs, etc. were funded with the increased dollars?; 4. How did states strategize meeting all of the needs eligible children and families?; 5. How did CCDF administrators, childcare providers, families, and other stakeholders describe the impact of funding?

Paper Presentation

Nongovernmental

Communities in Schools

20. Communities In Schools: An Implementation Evaluation of the Impact Grant. Starting in the Fall of 2016 three Impact Grants were disbursed over the course of three years to Communities in Schools affiliates across the country. These grants were established in hopes that they would allow high-performing affiliates to innovate on the longstanding CIS model in order to obtain a make a more profound impact in their schools. This is research explores the implementation process of those grants. The researcher conducted interviews with CIS and school district staff and reviewed CIS documents. Differences from design, challenges to implementation, and successful aspects of implementation were observed at all three affiliates. The research suggests that when implementing grants such as these: Clarity from all parties is important throughout the process, the ability to be flexible needs to be established in the grant structure, funding should be available up front, buy-in at all levels must be obtained, affiliate planning should be worked into the timeline, and the sustainability of affiliate innovations should be clear from the start.

Paper Presentation

21. Case Study on Communities In Schools Growth Grant Recipient Affiliates. In order to address the disparaging impacts that poverty has on student abilities to stay in school, Communities In Schools (CIS) implements an integrated students supports model to provide students with the supports that they need to stay in school. This paper explains the CIS model and empirical evidence that supports it, discusses the growth grants, presents information on the areas in which CIS of Mid-America, Chicago, and Northwest Michigan expanded to, dives deeper into the purpose of this case study, explains the methodology, and then presents findings, themes, and recommendations.

Paper Presentation

Kalanidhi Dance

22. Pre/Post Impact Evaluation of Kalanidhi Danceís Education Program. In partnership with Kalanidhi Dance, I designed and conducted a pre/post impact evaluation to assess the effectiveness of Kalanidhi Danceís education program on its students. This study will attempt to answer the following research questions: 1) what are the cultural/traditional and personal/social outcomes for Kalanidhi Danceís students? 2) what are the individual and collective impacts? 3) And how do we best measure these?Ē Recognizing the weaknesses of an evaluation on short-term and long-term impacts, the study will attempt to assess the effects of the education program on dance students through interviews that address the counterfactual (i.e. if the students did not attend Kalanidhi Dance, would the intended outcome(s) occur?) To answer the research questions, I conducted exploratory interviews with students, parents of students, and alumni of Kalanidhi Danceís education program. The primary source of data for this project are interviews with students, alumni, and parents of Kalanidhi Dance. Other sources included demographic and logistical data collected by Kalanidhi Dance. The final deliverable to the client is a condensed report of findings to use in grant applications and recommendations on how to use the results of this study to conduct formal pre/post evaluations for all current and new students of Kalanidhi Dance.

Paper Presentation

Prince Georgeís County Social Innovation Fund (PGCSIF)

23. Review of The Prince Georgeís County Social Innovation Fundís Ecosystem Planning. The Prince Georgeís County Social Innovation Fund (PGCSIF) exists to build social capital and invest in new approaches to solve the countyís social challenges. The PGCSIF is looking to rethink its strategy and organization model so that it can make its mark more explicit in the growing social innovation field by building a robust innovation ecosystem. This analysis identifies proven practices of strong innovation communities to improve PGCSIF operations as it works to build out its innovation ecosystem. The analyst reviewed six national and international organizations with similar objectives, created to cultivate a robust community of social innovators, entrepreneurs, enterprises, and leaders. This analysis found that while the PGCSIF is recognized in the county for its major impacts, it is currently challenged to fulfill its mission due to the lack of funding, undefined ecosystem engagement strategies, lack of staff, and inherent data collection and reporting challenges. This analysis made four recommendations. They are each practicable for the PGCSIF execution and impactful for Prince Georgeís County residents.

Paper Presentation

Sitar Arts

24. How Do D.C. Non-profit Organizations Define Low Income? This project is a market search on how Non-profit organizations in the DC area define low income. The research is requested by Sitar Arts (the client) to have a concrete understanding of the non-profit service market before they consider changing the internal definition used currently. The goal of this research is to have a starting data of income definitions and the reasoning behind the definitions. The comparison among Sitar Arts and other organizations will ultimately produce recommendations for Sitar Arts on what the next steps of adjusting the low-income definition should be like. From this research, the results should also show an overview of the service in the market, including information on the types of service offered and a general conclusion on how organizations in the DC are defining low-income.

Paper Presentation