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Student Reports

Spring 2013

Professors Douglas J. Besharov and Douglas Call

In Spring 2013, students worked with clients at Baltimore City Public Schools, Maryland Department of Human Resources, Montgomery County CountyStat, Montgomery County Police Department, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the Office of Child Support Enforcement), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and the U.S. Social Security Administration. Students performed a wide variety of analyses, including cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, performance measure development, process evaluation, and meta-assessment.

The following are the final projects prepared by the 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/

Municipal Government

Baltimore City Public Schools

1. Baltimore City Public Schools: An Evaluation of Electronic Recruitment from the User Perspective. Electronic Recruitment has become the primary method of employee recruitment for school districts like Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS). Not all school districts conduct electronic recruitment in the same manner, however. This analysis uses a case study design to compare the user experience of applying to BCPS with similar districts and private companies. Protocols include a rubric with a 1-5 scale along five dimensions: branding, visual appeal, ease of use, succinctness, and communication. Results indicate private companies scored better on average compared to school districts. High-performers include Google, Pearson, District of Columbia Public Schools, Qualcomm, and Montgomery Public Schools. BCPS scored about average compared to all sites surveyed. Suggestions for improvement include a more updated interface, targeted branding of the organization, and streamlining the number of questions on the application.

Paper Presentation

2. Performance Measures for Community Support for Schools Initiative of Baltimore City Public Schools. This report is a project from the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy for Baltimore City Public Schools' (City Schools) Office of Engagement. Many schools, including City Schools, are implementing community organizing techniques to increase parent engagement to support student success. One aspect of City Schools' engagement strategy is the Community Support for School Initiative (CSS). The 2012-2013 academic year marks the fourth year of CSS and the program has undergone significant structural changes this year. The scope of this report is to situate City Schools' CSS program in the literature of community organizing for education reform and to offer recommendations to City Schools on performance measures for their Community Support for Schools Initiative.

Paper Presentation
County Government

Montgomery County Police Department

3. Use of Force in the Montgomery County Police (MCP): An Alternative to how MCP Measures and Assesses ECDs Deployment. In 2011, the Maryland Legislature enacted and Governor O'Malley signed into law House Bill 507, entitled "Use of Electronic Control Devices - Reports." That law is now part of the Public Safety Article in Maryland's Annotated Code. This new law requires Maryland law enforcement agencies that issue electronic control devices to their officers to report certain information regarding the use of those devices on an annual basis to the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP). The goal of this report is to perform an assessment on how MCP's policies and processes adapt to new state legislation requirements on ECD reporting.

Paper Presentation
State Government

Maryland Department of Human Resources

4. Implementation Evaluation of the Partnership for Achieving Self Sufficiency. The Partnership for Achieving Self Sufficiency (PASS) is a new framework developed by the Maryland Department of Human Resource's Family Investment Administration to provide a more tailored, flexible, and frequently monitored framework for the Local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) that increases their support from the Department of Human Resources (DHR) and provides common metrics to help them benchmark their progress on statewide goals. For this project, an implementation evaluation was conducted to analyze the fidelity the program's implementation had to the original design. PASS performance data was collected to analyze initial trends and show how PASS presents its results data; and surveys were collected and interviews conducted with DHR and LDSS staff to evaluate what was actually being implemented.

The findings of the quantitative analysis were that the monthly performance scorecards used for each county varied widely depending on county size. The qualitative results showed that PASS inputs had been successfully implemented and that most DHR and LDSS PASS activities, outputs, and outcomes were implemented or realized. However, DHR activities not yet implemented because of other prioritizing areas of need were still desired by LDSS offices, such as PASS---specific training and best practices webinars, and that the Bureau of Program Evaluation (BPE) did not see itself as an active participant in PASS implementation although the department is listed as an active partner in the PASS manual. There was also some slight confusion among DHR staff over PASS implementation deadlines and the corrective action process. However, LDSS offices overall viewed PASS favorably and as a helpful framework to help them better review their resources and strategies.

Paper Presentation
Federal Government

U.S. Department of Education

5. Race to the Top - District: A Case Study Design. This report provides a case study design, complete with a detailed site selection process for the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top-District grant competition. The four sites are selected from the 16 grantees for case study using criteria based on Department of Education priorities, the goals of the grant program, and the design of the reforms proposed by the individual grantees: Carson City School District, Middletown School District, Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, and Miami-Dade County Schools. The case studies will be performed over a two-year period and will include two site visits where interviews, focus groups, and observation will take place. The final report will provide the Department of Education with valuable information on the implementation challenges, pitfalls, and lessons learned. It will also provide the Department with avenues for future research such as implementation evaluations and impact evaluations.

Paper Presentation
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

6. The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative: Analysis of Centerpiece Programs for Creating Broader Performance Measures. The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) is an interagency partnership between the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Treasury that is working to address concentrated poverty through education, housing, public safety and health.The Initiative aims to create a better quality of life by improving the components of a healthy and thriving neighborhood. This report has pointed out the goals of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, the goals of the Initiative's centerpiece programs, and the outcomes and impacts observed as a whole. Performance measures were created after review of each program's goals to understand the metrics currently used by HUD in creation of the broader metrics.

Paper Presentation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

7. Assessing and Measuring Consumer e-Health Tools: Improving Information Dissemination and Patient Engagement in Health Care Delivery. The foregoing analysis seeks to bring some clarity to the complicated arena of health care delivery as it relates to information quality. First, the study examines literature on the evolution of consumer health information technologies and their suitability as a solution to the problem of information fragmented, non-patient centric care. Then, the analysis describes the methods incorporated of developing effective, policy-relevant metrics of Consumer e-Health tools that address health care quality. Finally, recommended performance measures and implementation are made for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports.

Paper Presentation

8. The Modification of Child Support for Incarcerated Parents: State Practices in Washington, Texas and Maryland. The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) encourages states to set realistic child support orders for incarcerated parents that reflect their actual ability to pay during their time in prison. Establishing realistic support orders for incarcerated parents requires that states adopt policies that permit and facilitate the downward modification of child support orders following incarceration. At this time, a number of barriers to modification during incarceration persist for parents in many states. Furthermore, the body of research and data related to this issue remains highly limited. The purpose of the present analysis is to explore promising state practices related to the modification of child support orders for incarcerated parents. Through qualitative interviews and online research modification programs in Washington, Texas and Maryland were explored and key lessons were drawn.

Paper Presentation
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

9. Evaluating the Disaster Recovery Enhancement Fund: The Program's Use as an Incentive and its Effect on Disaster Mitigation and Prevention Views. In response to the wide spread damages from Hurricane Ike and Gustav in 2008, Congress appropriated additional disaster recovery aid through HUD's CDBG Disaster Recover Assistance program. The additional $6.5 billion allocation was available to the 15 states that were eligible under the initial 2008 appropriation. Before states began applying for the additional funds, HUD set aside $311,602,923 for an experimental program called the Disaster Recovery Enhancement Fund (DREF). To be eligible for additional funding under DREF, states needed to show their remaining unmet need and their Action Plans had to include provisions for at least one of the four pre-determined DREF-eligible activities. Thirteen of the 15 eligible states applied for and received DREF funding.

This paper seeks to determine what effect DREF had on the grantees' behaviors and attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge of disaster mitigation strategies. While I found that DREF was not an incentive to most states to engage in new disaster mitigation strategies, the funding did allow states to expand the activities that were already planned for; the main exception is that states used DREF funding for new landuse plans that otherwise would not have happened. As expected due to this finding, the states reported that DREF did not give them a new perspective or attitude on disaster mitigation. However, four grantees did report that the DREF process lead to a gain in knowledge on disaster mitigation and prevention strategies. All of the states reported generally positive opinions on DREF as HUD policy.

Paper Presentation
U.S. Government Accountability Office

10. Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Common Core State Standards is a set of academic standards that prescribes what should be learnt in English and Mathematics for each of the grades from kindergarten through high school. The key goals of the Common Core State Standards are: To have common K-12 standards across states and for these standards to be fewer in number, more indepth, aligned with the expectations in entry level college courses and work, rigorous in terms of content and application of concepts, internationally benchmarked and research and evidence based. Most states adopted the standards in 2010, which means that they decided to have the Common Core State Standards replace their existing state standards in English and Mathematics for each of the grades kindergarten through high school.

This project concentrated on three research questions. They were: (1) Why are states adopting or not adopting the Common Core State Standards initiative? (2) How are states implementing the Common Core State Standards and preparing for Common Core State Standards based assessments? and (3) What are the challenges that states face in the implementation of the Common Core States Standards Initiative? This paper indicates that the federal Department of Education's Race to the Top competitive grant played a key role in incentivizing or discouraging the adoption of the standards.

Paper Presentation

11. Parental Involvement in Education: An Overview of What is Known, Best Practices and Challenges, and Recent Proposals and Recommendations Regarding Parental Involvement Activities and Policies from the Local Educational Agency (LEA) Perspective. The United States Department of Education (ED) defines parental involvement as "the participation of parents in regular, two-way, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities." Parental involvement activities may include, but are not limited to: annual meetings; regular parent-teacher conferences; trainings for parents; volunteer opportunities; and, language and technical assistance. Since Congress has yet to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), parental involvement in education has become a hot topic; and, therefore, a timely issue to study.

My clients are interested in the following questions: (1) What is known about how local educational agencies (LEAs) and state educational agencies (SEAs) are implementing parental involvement policies and practices? (2) What are the challenges and promising practices in implementing parental involvement activities and programs at the LEA level? and (3) What are the recent national policy proposals? By focusing on these three questions, my clients and I strive to develop a better understanding of parental involvement activities and policies from the LEA perspective.

Paper Presentation

12. Preschool Meal Programs: Consistency with Nutritional Standards and Assessment Results. As young children in the United States spend more of their time in child care settings, responsibility for providing food and supporting healthy eating habits is shifting more to child care providers. Child care centers, informal caregivers and other early childhood settings are poised to impact children's nutrition at a critical point in their development with the support of federal programs. Recent trends in young children's health in the United States have brought increased attention to the effectiveness of federally funded preschool meal programs, and prompted executive branch efforts to improve children's nutrition, including the formation of the Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity in 2010. These trends provide a strong incentive for this study - as budget and health concerns increase, it is especially important that food programs directed toward the youngest children are structured as efficiently as possible to achieve their intended effects. As such, the selected research questions seek to determine how efficiently and effectively the CACFP and other meal programs are structured to provide meals to the pre-school population.

This project focused on the following research questions selected under guidance from advisors at the Government Accountability Office (GAO): (1) Are the nutritional guidelines in infant and pre-school meal programs consistent with research and other standards? and (2) How have the effectiveness of these programs been measured, and what have evaluations of these programs shown?

Paper Presentation

13. Special Education or Segregation? Minority Overrepresentation and Inclusive Education. Minority overrepresentation is one of the most important issues in the field of special education. Every year, nearly 10% of the general population students ages 6 through 21 is served under some type of special education related service; however American Indian/Alaska Native students and Black (not Hispanic) students are 1.5 times more likely to be served under some type of special education service. Some scholars point out that schools do not successfully differentiate between students with limited English skills and students with disabilities. Those minority students with disabilities are standing in the intersection of race, ethnicity, class, gender, culture, language, and disability, but the current special education system does not successfully provide proper supports for those disadvantaged students. Also, placing students into a separated environment may deprive them from equal opportunities rather than providing equal protection. This policy analysis paper investigates those contentious and complicated issues of special education focusing on minority overrepresentation and inappropriate placement.

Paper Presentation

14. Third Grade Retention: Assessing State Policies and its Effects. Working under the direction of the Government Accountability Office, I was asked to research 3rd grade test-based retention in elementary education as an assessment on state policies across the nation and its recorded effects from the scholarly community.

Paper Presentation
U.S. Office of Management and Budget

15. Case Study: An examination of Open Government Initiatives at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT. This is a descriptive, instrumental case study that sought to answer the basic question, How is ONC complying with the Obama administration's Open Government initiatives? Goals associated with the study include: (1) To understand how various activities and programs align with the administration's goals of promoting more transparent, participatory and collaborative government; (2) To identify definitional themes of "Open Government" as illustrated by stakeholders inside and outside of ONC; and (3) To explore how data are being used "downstream" to inform policy decisions, enhance research, and/or promote innovation; and 4) To propose a conceptual framework through which ONC and other government agencies could assess current and future Open Government initiatives.

Key takeaways of this study were (1) ONC has a host of programs and projects that meet Open Government criteria established by the Obama administration - some expressly, others implicitly; (2) Programs and projects that display all three attributes of Open Government are rare, but a balanced portfolio negates the need to meet all criteria within a single policy or program; and (3) Identifying return on investment (ROI) for Open Government projects is a difficult task, though this does not obfuscate the need.

Paper Presentation

16. State Longitudinal Data Systems: Linking Education and Workforce Data. State longitudinal data systems are used to track students' educational progress and outcomes over time. All states have K-12 data systems and increasingly states are designing and implementing P-20W systems capable of tracking students from early childhood through the workforce. Data sharing between education and workforce agencies is an essential component of bridging knowledge between students' educational pathways and their employment outcomes.

Despite the push, only 29 states currently have data sharing agreements in place between K-12, postsecondary and workforce agencies. The current study attempts to shed some light on current data sharing practices across a small number of states. These states are not considered to be a representative sample, but rather illustrative of the process and barriers in designing and implementing data sharing practices between education and workforce agencies.

Paper Presentation
U.S. Social Security Administration

17. Impact of Low Expectations on Child Supplemental Security Income Recipients: A project for the Social Security Administration. For many youths, the transition to adulthood is one of the most important times in their life - and this is certainly true for young adults with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Unfortunately, many of these young adults struggle to achieve selfsufficiency in their early adult years. One contributing factor appears to be low expectations at an individual, parental, and societal level. In the context of this paper, low expectations are the beliefs that people with disabilities cannot be reasonably expected to learn, develop, and become independent.

While low expectations have been identified as one obstacle to self-sufficiency, it is not clear how this actually impacts SSI recipients. To this end, the following paper seeks to address two questions: 1. What effect do low expectations have on child SSI recipients, particularly as they transition to adulthood? 2. How can the Social Security Administration (SSA) better support young adults as they go through the transition process?

Paper Presentation

Pathways to Housing DC

18. Performance Measurements: Pathways to Housing DC. Pathways to Housing DC is well-situated for the development and implementation of a performance measurement system. The organization's prior use of measurement and robust data tracking efforts provide a great starting point to build upon. During the planning of this project, two key goals were defined at the outset: to capitalize on existing data and to be mindful of not increasing the burden on staff. Design of this performance measurement system reflects these two goals and was accomplished through a rigorous process over four months that included delving into the organization's data management system, collection methods, and an overall analysis of staff and supervisor needs. Developing significant outcomes and identifying indicators that will allow the organization to know whether they are achieving success on these selected outcomes was attained through an iterative process that involved research of similar organizations, a review of relevant research literature, and organizational input and feedback.

The purpose of this project and report is the identification and development of performance measures for Pathways to Housing DC, housing and services teams. It is expected that these results will serve as a tool for organizational learning and growth, provide feedback to inform leadership and staff of program outcomes and impacts, and lead to overall quality improvement and better outcomes for consumers.

Paper Presentation

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