Making the Most of Each Budget Dollar

One of the few things both sides of the political aisle are able to agree on is getting better performance out of programs, as seen by the move toward evidence-based policymaking under prior administrations. The federal government could lead by example, suggests Brookings Fellow Andrew Feldman, by creating a bipartisan team focused on improving performance of federally funded programs, giving states the freedom to implement innovative programming and shoulder more accountability for results, and reducing hurdles to program evaluation while encouraging the incorporation of data analytics into regular reporting. In a time of new federal spending priorities, budget shortfalls, increased need, and much uncertainty, states must get serious about investing in programs that work by actively incorporating outcomes research into their policymaking.

A report from the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, How States Engage in Evidence-Based Policymaking: A National Assessment, assessed the levels of commitment and action of states using research to guide decision-making related behavioral health, criminal justice, juvenile justice and child welfare policy. This study scored each state and the District of Columbia on the extent to which they incorporated research findings in policy, including defining categories of evidence, conducting program cost-benefit analyses, and identifying specific funding for evidence-based programming. According to the brief, 50 states have taken some sort of action through the allocation of funding for programs supported by research findings, while 42 states report outcomes in the budget annually. Just 17 states compare program outcomes and costs.

While Washington, Utah, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Oregon lead the nation in evidence–based policymaking, Pennsylvania is one of 11 “established” states, with 13 evidence-based policymaking actions (three advanced and ten minimum) across the four policy areas studied. According to the assessment scorecard, Pennsylvania uses advanced research-driven policy actions most often in the juvenile justice sector.

Read more about the levels of evidence-based policy-making and individual state scorecards, in the report available at the Pew Charitable Trusts website. Case studies are also available on how to design contracts and grants to require outcomes reporting tied to program performance.

A Snapshot of Arts Participation in the United States

Still Life with Apples by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 - 1906) Oil on canvas France 1893 - 1894 Source: J. Paul Getty Museum. Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum West Pavilion, Gallery W20 Used via the Getty's Open Content Program.
Still Life with Apples by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 – 1906) Oil on canvas France 1893 – 1894 Source: J. Paul Getty Museum. Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum West Pavilion, Gallery W20 Courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Last month The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published research on the participation of Americans in the arts at both a national and state level. In 2015, approximately two-thirds of American adults attended at least one film or visual art or performance event within the last year. Films appeared to be the most popular choice (among both urban and rural residents) with 55 percent of adults reporting that they took in a movie, while 32 percent attended a live dance, music or drama performance, and 19 percent an art exhibit. Residents of urban areas attended live arts events (33 percent versus 21 percent) and movies (60 percent versus 46 percent) more than their rural counterparts.

The proportion of American adults reading literature (plays, poetry, novels – not work or school materials) declined from 47 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2015. Women (49.8 percent) reported reading literature more than men (35.9 percent). Generally, better educated respondents reported a higher level of literature consumption than those with less education.

Pennsylvania had a slightly lower rate of adults attending a live arts performance or movie than the national average (65.2 percent versus 66.2). Overall, Pennsylvania residents’ rates of arts participation via literature, art class enrollment, personal creation, or use of electronic media to experience the arts were not significantly greater or less than the U.S average. All state profiles and additional briefs on arts engagement are available at the NEA webpage.

RAND Study Examines Access to Dental Care in Pennsylvania

Although it is preventable, dental disease is perhaps the most prevalent chronic childhood illness in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of children 5 to 11 years old have one tooth with untreated decay, a situation that may lead to more severe health problems. Youth from lower-income families have a higher rate of untreated tooth decay than their peers.

As dental care has long been a component of public health policyRAND examined access to dental care across Pennsylvania using a series of indicators to determine the distribution and available of dentists and dental hygienists. Two counties (Potter and Juniata) did not meet the guideline of full-time dentist per number of residents. Other counties varied greatly across study indicators. A sample of findings:

  • Two counties do not have dentists that accept Medicaid.
  • 58 percent of counties in Pennsylvania do not have pediatric dental specialists.
  • High unemployment rates were associated with fewer providers of dental care.
  • The Head Start program appears to be a successful method in getting dental care to children who might not otherwise have access to it.

The full report, including a discussion of associations of the study’s access-to-care indicators to each other, as well as to county demographics, is available for download on the RAND website.

 

 

Citation:  Baird, Matthew D., Michelle K. Baird and Joseph V. Vesely. Access to Dental Providers in Pennsylvania: Exploration of the County-Level Distribution of Dental Providers and Populations in 2013. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1351.html.

 

Positive Student Performance Outcomes Linked to Ethnic Studies Curriculum

The inclusion of ethnic studies (ES) in high school curricula is a topic of much debate, with one state banning some ES classes and another state’s Governor vetoing a bill that would have mandated them in public schools. Although both critics and supporters of culturally relevant teaching have strong views regarding its impact on students, there was little quantitative research in this area. Until now.

A study out of Stanford University found statistically significant increases in key academic outcomes among at-risk students in ES classes.  Data from several student cohorts from 3 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District indicate that those students enrolled in the classes increased school attendance by 21 percent, GPA by 1.4 points and academic credits earned by 23.  Male students and Hispanic students showed the largest increase in positive outcomes.

The authors of the study note that while their work offers empirical evidence of the impact of culturally relevant pedagogy on student performance, questions remain on the scalability of the approach and the size of the effect (if any) on students with higher levels of academic achievement. The paper is available for download on the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis webpage.

 

 

Citation: Dee, T., & Penner, E. (2016). The Casual Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum (CEPA Working Paper No.16-01). Retrieved from Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis: http://cepa.stanford.edu/wp16-01