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Zambia’s Social Cash Transfer (SCT) Programme is implemented by the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health and has been operating in Zambia since 2003. As of December 2014, the programme reached 150,000 households across 50 districts and there are concrete plans to scale it up nation-wide in the near future. The main objective of the SCT is to reduce extreme poverty and to prevent its transmission across generations. Results from the impact evaluation carried out by FAO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the American Institutes for Research show that the programme is having positive impacts: increased food security, improved child wellbeing, improved living conditions and increased productivity and ownership of productive assets. Turning a new leaf as small entrepreneurs – the stories of Ruth and Poniso 28-year old Ruth Simutombo is one of the beneficiaries of the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme. She lives with her son Patrick and her sister’s son, Sichimwa, in Ng’andu Village in the Southern Province of Kazungula, which is where the programme first started in 2003. It is late afternoon and she is slowly stirring the nshima – a dish made from maize flour and water which is the staple food in Zambia – while she recounts how being part of the transfer programme changed her life. “I used to live in dire conditions. I could not afford buying my own house so we were sharing that of my grandmother’s. Now, with the money I receive every month, I moved into a new house with both children, bought them school uniforms and can pay for their school fees. Patrick wants to become a lawyer and Sichimwa a teacher… and now I can help make those dreams into reality.” Ruth is also part of a training programme that teaches families how to save and invest money. Thanks to the new skills she learned, she was able to open a small shop in the local market that sells fruit, soft drinks and veggies. Ruth is just one of many examples of the positive impacts of cash transfers in the country. Working to reduce poverty levels and its intergenerational transfer, the Government, through the SCT, targets the labour-constrained and extremely poor households. For a household to become eligible, they must meet certain criteria which include location of residence, proportion of household members of working age that are fit to work and welfare levels. “I will always be grateful for the support I receive,” says Poniso Mondandi from Makalanguza village while she waits in line for the 140 Kwacha (equivalent to some US$27) she receives every two months. “Without the help, I wouldn’t have been able to open my small shop where I sell home-made bread buns, hats and dried vegetables. I wouldn’t have hired somebody to work on my farm or sent my grandchildren to school.” An impact evaluation of the SCT, carried out by FAO, UNICEF and the American Institutes for Research, evidenced that beneficiaries increased the amount of land dedicated to crop production by 34 percent and expenditure on agricultural inputs more than doubled. Input and cultivation of land led to an almost 50 percent increase in the value of the harvest during the rainy season of 2012, which was mainly sold on local markets. The programme impacted not only the direct beneficiaries but also the communities they live in. When beneficiaries spend the money locally, the non-beneficiary households that supply goods and services also benefit from the increased cash circulating in the community. For example, for every Kwacha transferred to beneficiaries, up to an extra .79 Kwacha in income is generated, mostly accruing to non-beneficiaries. Evidence also shows that there was an important improvement in terms of food security and an increase in the share of households owning livestock such as goats, cows and chickens. Hopes for a brighter future Over the next months and years, FAO plans to expand its research programme in the country to include: i) assessing the longer-term impacts on productive activities and labour allocation of the programme; ii) undertaking a qualitative case study on the potential contribution of social protection interventions towards decent rural employment in rural areas; and iii) generating evidence on the value-added of combined agricultural and social protection interventions in improving household resilience, food security and nutrition and reducing poverty. Combined with sound policy measures, the programme will strengthen Government capacities to better coordinate between agricultural and social protection interventions. It will also deepen policy makers’ understanding of how to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and prove that cash transfers can help households become more productive.


News Article | October 28, 2016
Site: www.prweb.com

Students in low-performing schools in Massachusetts that received state School Redesign Grants (SRG) demonstrated greater academic improvement in English language arts and mathematics than students in comparison public schools, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). A companion implementation study, using qualitative data from current and past SRG recipient schools, offers some insights into the strategies that characterize SRG schools showing improvements in student achievement. Massachusetts’ School Redesign Grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Education Title I School Improvement Grants, federal dollars awarded to more than 1,800 low-performing schools nationwide and specifically designed to raise student achievement. In Massachusetts, the lowest performing schools in need of the most assistance but not yet under state control (Level 4 schools) are eligible for these grants and can be used to support a variety of research-based turnaround practices. According to the AIR study, schools receiving the grants saw gains in student achievement, and the achievement gap between English-language learners and other students shrank more than in comparison schools, as did the achievement gap between students with and without access to free and reduced-price school lunches. “The achievement gains were robust across district and grade levels,” Christina LiCalsi, lead author of the report said. “Results of this size mean that within three years the gap in average achievement between students in these low-performing schools and students in other schools within the same district was halved. These results are substantial,” she said. At the time of the study, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had provided grants to 56 low-performing schools since 2010. Of these, 22 demonstrated student achievement gains substantial enough to improve the school’s accountability level (from Level 4 to 3 or better) as of August 2016. Although all School Redesign Grants schools are expected to implement a turnaround plan aligned to four key practices, described in detail in the Massachusetts Turnaround Practices Indicators and Continuum, some specific strategies related to each practice were prevalent among the schools showing notable improvements and thus, suggesting that they may have been important drivers of the change, according to the AIR researchers responsible for the implementation study. For example, leaders of successful School Redesign Grants schools actively and strategically used the increased autonomy and flexibility that the department affords all Level 4 schools to recruit and assign appropriate staff and to modify the school-day schedule. As one principal said: “It's important to create schedules that allow for [teachers’] collaborative work during the school day.” Developing and implementing strategies for effective two-way communication between principals and teachers was also seen as very important or essential to school improvement, according to staff in successful schools. Setting and communicating high expectations for instruction, conducting regular classroom observations by principals and other teachers, and providing teachers with targeted and actionable feedback aligned to those expectations were viewed as key to improving instruction. In successful schools receiving School Redesign Grants, data from classroom observations were also used to regularly inform school leaders’ decisions about schoolwide instructional practice and necessary educator supports. Providing individualized attention and academic and nonacademic support to students in need of extra help was widely seen as integral to successful turnaround. One school reported that staff regularly reviewed students’ “ABCs”—attendance, behavior and course performance. Establishing and consistently implementing systems for identifying and providing social and emotional support to student populations with disproportionately high needs was deemed especially critical to these schools’ success. In successful schools, teachers developed good relationships with students and their families, and schools worked closely with external partners to provide “wraparound” services, such as physical and mental health supports to students and their families. Because low-performing schools often face student behavior problems, improving school climate was also seen as vital in turning around these schools. Many successful SRG schools established, almost immediately upon SRG receipt, a consistent behavior plan to build a safe, orderly and respectful school culture, and expanded after-school and nonacademic clubs, athletics and other activities as a way to manage behavioral issues. In addition, staff were encouraged, if not required, to be more proactive in communicating with students’ parents about successes as well as problems. Even though schools experienced gains overall, as evidenced by findings from the study, staff in these schools described ongoing challenges in successfully and consistently implementing turnaround strategies expected of SRG schools. For example, staff frequently cited insufficient staff time and school resources and competing turnaround priorities as obstacles to improvement. Even communicating a turnaround plan in struggling schools and building staff support for the plan can be difficult in these schools since, as one principal explained, many teachers are “demoralized by the previous administration, and so accustomed to blaming students and their families for the lack of achievement.” The implementation study was primarily informed by extant data gathered through interviews and focus groups during annual AIR school monitoring visits and from surveys of staff in schools that have successfully exited Level 4. This study of the intervention’s effectiveness used a comparative interrupted time series design, which used changes in outcomes over time across 47 SRG schools and comparison schools to assess gains in performance attributable to the SRGs. The new two-part AIR study is available at http://www.air.org. About AIR Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit http://www.air.org.


Experts from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) will deliver presentations on a broad range of education research topics during the Society for Research on Education Effectiveness (SREE) conference March 1-4, 2017 in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference theme, “Expanding the Toolkit: Maximizing Relevance, Effectiveness and Rigor in Education Research,” focuses on recent innovations that expand the methodological array utilized in education research. AIR presentations will explore topics that range from specific research methods and study design, to School Improvement Grants, college readiness programs, and content-intensive teacher professional development programs. AIR is also sponsoring a forum on women in quantitative methodology. Focusing on Mathematical Knowledge: The Impact of Content-Intensive Teacher Professional Development Room: Gallery 2 - Park Hyatt Hotel, Ballroom Level AIR Organizer: Rachel Garrett Design and Implementation of the Professional Development Program AIR Presenters/Authors: Michael S. Garet, Jessica Heppen, Kirk Walters, Julia Parkinson, Toni Smith, Mengli Song & Rui Yang Examining the Internal Validity of School-Level Comparative Interrupted Time Series Designs Using Randomized Experiment Causal Benchmarks AIR Authors: Ryan Williams & Andrew Swanlund High School Policies and Interventions to Promote Completion and College Attendance Room: Sulgrave - Fairmont Hotel, Floor 3 The Impact of a School wide College Readiness Program After One Year of Implementation AIR Presenters/Authors: Elisabeth Davis, Jim Lindsay & Amy Proger The BARR Program: Impacting Social Emotional Skills and Academic Achievement of 9th Grade Students in 6 High Schools - Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial AIR Presenters/Authors: Trisha Borman, Johannes Bos, Brenna O'Brien, So Jung Park & Feng Liu Two Paths to Change: School Turnaround and Student Choice Room: Gallery 3 - Park Hyatt Hotel, Ballroom Level The Impact of School Improvement Grants on Practices and Student Outcomes: Findings from a National Evaluation Using a Regression Discontinuity Design AIR Authors: Cheryl Graczewski & Courtney Tanenbaum School Turnaround in Massachusetts: The Impact of SIG Funded School Redesign Grants AIR Presenters/Authors: Christina LiCalsi & Dionisio Garcia Piriz Learning from Differences: How Assessing Starting Points May Influence Practice Room: Gallery 3 - Park Hyatt Hotel, Ballroom Level AIR Chair: Jill Pentimonti Statistical Power and Autocorrelation for Short, Comparative Interrupted Time Series Designs with Aggregate Data AIR Presenters/Authors: Andrew Swanlund & Ryan Williams Teachers' Use of Elicitation Techniques During Shared Reading AIR Presenter/Author: Jill Pentimonti Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Approaches to Evaluating Early Childhood Educational Programming in Low- and Middle-Income Countries Room: Dumbarton - Fairmont Hotel, Floor 3 Designing a Rigorous School Readiness Program Evaluation for the Lao Educational Access and Research Network (LEARN) AIR Presenters/Authors: Elizabeth Spier, Amy Todd, Pooja Reddy Nakamura & Johannes Bos Expanding the Power Analysis Toolkit: A Description and Demonstration of New Resources Room: Kennedy - Fairmont Hotel, Ballroom Level AIR Organizer: Jordan Rickles Using the Student Attrition Lookup Tool (SALT) to Plan for Attrition in School-Based Evaluations AIR Presenters/Authors: Jordan Rickles & Kristina Zeiser More information about the conference may be found at https://www.sree.org/conferences/2017s/. About AIR Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit http://www.air.org.


Yang M.,American Institutes for Research | Maxwell S.E.,University of Notre Dame
Psychological Methods | Year: 2014

Randomized longitudinal designs are commonly used in psychological and medical studies to investigate the treatment effect of an intervention or an experimental drug. Traditional linear mixed-effects models for randomized longitudinal designs are limited to maximum-likelihood methods that assume data are missing at random (MAR). In practice, because longitudinal data are often likely to be missing not at random (MNAR), the traditional mixed-effects model might lead to biased estimates of treatment effects. In such cases, an alternative approach is to utilize pattern-mixture models. In this article, a Monte Carlo simulation study compares the traditional mixed-effects model and 2 different approaches to patternmixture models (i.e., the differencing-averaging method and the averaging-differencing method) across different missing mechanisms (i.e., MAR, random-coefficient-dependent MNAR, or outcome-dependent MNAR) and different types of treatment-condition-based missingness. Results suggest that the traditional mixed-effects model is well suited for analyzing data with the MAR mechanism whereas the proposed pattern-mixture averaging-differencing model has the best overall performance for analyzing data with the MNAR mechanism. No method was found that could provide unbiased estimates under every missing mechanism, leading to a practical suggestion that researchers need to consider why data are missing and should also consider performing a sensitivity analysis to ascertain the extent to which their results are consistent across various missingness assumptions. Applications of different estimation methods are also illustrated using a real-data example. © 2013 American Psychological Association.


Williams R.,American Institutes for Research | Murray A.,University of Memphis
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation | Year: 2015

Objectives: To use meta-analysis to synthesize point prevalence estimates of depressive disorder diagnoses for persons who have sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI).Data Sources: We searched PsycINFO, PubMed, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI) for studies examining depression after SCI through 2013. We also conducted a manual search of the reference sections of included studies.Study Selection: Included studies contained persons with SCI; used a diagnostic measure of depression (ie, an unstructured, semi-structured, or structured clinical interview, and/or a clinician diagnosis); and provided a diagnosis of major or minor depressive episodes for the subjects in the study. Diagnostic criteria were based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Third Edition (including Research Diagnostic Criteria) criteria.Data Extraction: The 2 authors of this study screened the titles and abstracts of 1053 unique studies for inclusion in this meta-analysis. Nineteen studies, containing 35,676 subjects and 21 effect size estimates, were included.Data Synthesis: The mean prevalence estimate of depression diagnosis after SCI was 22.2%, with a lower-bound estimate of 18.7% and an upper bound estimate of 26.3%. Random effects and mixed effects models were used in this work. A small number of study moderators were explored, including sample sex composition, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version used, data collection method (primary vs secondary), sample traumatic etiology composition, sample injury level and completeness composition, and sample diagnostic composition. Data collection method, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version, and diagnostic composition significantly predicted variation in observed effect size estimates, with primary data collection studies having lower estimates compared with secondary data analysis studies, studies using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, diagnostic criteria having higher estimates compared with studies using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, criteria, and samples comprising individuals diagnosed only with major depression having lower prevalence estimates.Conclusions: The existing data on depression after SCI indicate that the prevalence of depression after SCI is substantially greater than that in the general medical population. These results underscore the importance of continued research on measuring depression in persons with SCI and on treatments for depression after SCI. © 2015 American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.


To complement a nursing home resident survey, the team developed a survey asking family members about their experiences with nursing homes. Although a family member does not receive care directly from a nursing home, their experiences at the nursing home and with staff can contribute to understanding nursing home quality. To describe how the nursing home family member instrument was developed, refined, tested, and finalized. The team developed a draft survey using information from a literature review, 12 focus groups with family members involved in choosing a nursing home for someone, review of nursing home surveys, and expert/stakeholder input. The survey went through 2 rounds of cognitive interviews (n=54) and revisions and was fielded in 15 nursing homes. Data from the pilot survey (n=885) were subjected to psychometric analyses to evaluate the measurement properties of items as well as the reliability and validity of the resulting composites. On the basis of these analyses and input from experts, the survey was finalized. Focus groups and experts provided input into discerning important indicators of quality, although in some cases family members were not the best sources of information. Cognitive testing refined the survey and eliminated some of the proxy items. The field test analysis and input from experts eliminated 10 items. The final survey included 21 items organized into 4 composites. This survey measures family members' experiences of nursing home care, and the results contribute to the understanding of quality of care in nursing homes.


Patent
American Institutes For Research | Date: 2014-09-19

A construction and display of speech commands system that allows a user to simply read what is on an application that involves visual elements with which the user interacts, and in doing so, gives the appropriate commands to the speech recognition system for the task at hand. The construction and display of speech commands system may include a speech recognition system, a grammar builder module, and a speech enablement module. The construction and display of speech commands system may automatically generate a speech enabled application from generated speech grammar.


Patent
American Institutes For Research | Date: 2011-08-30

A system, method, and related techniques are disclosed for scoring user responses to constructed response test items. The system includes a scoring engine for receiving a user response to a test question and evaluating the response against a scoring rubric. The scoring rubric may include a binding stage, an assertion stage, and a scoring stage. Furthermore, the system includes a database for referencing elements used by the scoring engine which may comprise objects, object sets, attributes of objects, and transformations of any elements.


Patent
American Institutes For Research | Date: 2011-08-30

A system, method, and related techniques are disclosed for scoring user responses to constructed response test items. The system includes a scoring engine for receiving a user response to a test question and evaluating the response against a scoring rubric. The scoring rubric may include a binding stage, an assertion stage, and a scoring stage. Furthermore, the system includes a database for referencing elements used by the scoring engine which may comprise objects, object sets, attributes of objects, and transformations of any elements.


News Article | November 30, 2016
Site: www.prweb.com

Community-based services and programs aiming to improve older Americans’ social engagement and quality of life promote health at a fraction of the cost of medical interventions, according to two new briefs by the American Institutes for Research’s (AIR) Center on Aging. These models suggest a win-win pathway to addressing soaring healthcare costs and improving the well-being of the nation’s rapidly growing older population. Compared with healthcare spending on older Americans, funding for supportive services, such as transportation, meals and housing is miniscule. The federal government spent about $624 billion in 2015 on Medicare, Medicaid and other programs for Americans 65 and older—supplemented by state and local government funds. By comparison, less than $10 billion was allotted to social and economic programs administered by a patchwork of agencies. Yet, supportive services can affect half of modifiable changes in health outcomes, compared with 20 percent that can be driven through clinical interventions, notes one brief, All Together Now: Integrating Health and Community Supports for Older Adults. An aging America and $3 trillion-a-year healthcare costs make it essential that the nation finds ways to enable tens of millions of people to live healthy lives in their communities while achieving better outcomes with the enormous public and private resources spent on health. The number of older Americans has increased by 60 percent since 1980 and is projected to reach 72.8 million, or one-fifth of the population, by 2030. Federal healthcare spending accounts for one-third of the $4 trillion budget and all healthcare costs accounted for 17.5 percent of GDP in 2014. By comparison, funding for the Older American’s Act, the primary source of funding for local agencies seeking to support older Americans, has fallen by 34 percent in real terms since 1980. The second brief, Community-Based Models for Aging in Place, examines several promising private initiatives for older Americans, with some promise on social engagement and well being, but yet to be sufficiently assessed regarding long-term health benefits: The second brief shares some proven benefits of these models, particularly with respect to social isolation and access to needed supports. Many more types of mature communities beyond these three models are working to address growing health needs as their participants age. These communities have sustainability challenges similar to their underfunded public sector counterparts. The combination of an aging population, older Americans’ desire to age in place, the need for more cost-effective approaches to healthcare, and the goal of ensuring a good quality of life for older adults indicate that these public and private initiatives hold promise. “Maximizing health and engagement in communities is a near-universal priority,” the authors write. “Greater emphasis on support services and better integration of those services with other programs will advance the goal of sustaining policies and programs related to aging in place.” Get more insight on this work by joining the Center on Aging’s Dec. 15 webinar, Integrating Health and Community Supports for Aging in Place. About AIR Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit http://www.air.org.

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