WESTAT SAN ANTONIO BREAKS DOWN SILOS,
MAKES SENSE OF DATA, “HELPS PEOPLE HELP KIDS”
Westat is a national employee-owned firm offering research and related services, such as data design, collection, and analysis to empower national, state, and local government agencies and nonprofits to forge effective programs in health, transportation, education, and social policy.
The Education Studies Practice works with federal, state, and local agencies; foundations; and other non-profit organization to evaluate educational programs, policies, and practices that serve children and young people. Two current projects demonstrate the scope and range of Westat’s capacity to use data to support programs for youth that take diverse paths into adulthood beyond the traditional college-bound trajectory.
Since 2012, Westat has worked with a national telecommunications company to evaluate its signature education program, designed to improve high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020, in which more than 150 school districts nationwide and their community partners have participated. The evaluators’ challenge was identifying common indicators to assess student outcomes. On-track to on-time graduation status at the end of 9th grade (OTI) is one of two academic outcome measures selected, based on research from the University of Chicago’s Consortium of School Research. GPA is the second academic outcome measure used. Since school districts report GPA in various ways, Westat transforms GPA scales into a rank order within each district, enabling comparison among districts. In addition, as a generic measure of student engagement, researchers use a school attendance metric attained by dividing the number of days actually attended by the number of school days offered. Westat is also currently investigating a benefit-cost metric the funder can use to assess its investment portfolio.
The Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII) of the New York County District Attorney’s Office (DANY) invests funds in compelling projects to improve public safety, develop broad crime prevention efforts, and promote a fair and efficient justice system. Youth Opportunity Hubs is one such program. Young people use supportive services more when they are easily accessible, so the “neighborhood Hub” approach coordinates family, community, school, and city resources in attractive, convenient social spaces in under-resourced neighborhoods. Youth Opportunity Hubs link neighborhood service providers to provide integrated, comprehensive support for children, teens, and young adults to help prevent them from becoming involved in the criminal justice system.
Westat serves as the evaluator of the Youth Opportunity Hubs program, with support from its partner, Metis Associates, Inc. Evaluators must collect and link data from more than 80 service partners working with five Hubs throughout Manhattan; each Hub offers a range of services and collects data in unique ways. Over a four-year period, Westat will work with the Hubs to address those challenges as well as develop new indicators to assess young people’s progress toward their goals for successful transition into adulthood.
Improving Lives Through Research
Westat sets the benchmark for excellence in education by evaluating programs, helping build capacity, and providing training and program-centered technical assistance.
Westat also provides support to national and international assessment programs.
Its areas of expertise include early childhood to postsecondary education, developing effective educators, equity, literacy, educational technology, and personalized learning.
Staff specialize in program implementation and impact evaluation from design through analysis and policy-relevant reporting, as well as performance monitoring.