2019-2020 Capstone Projects
A Criminal Justice Team Studies Re-entry Interventions for Veterans
For incarcerated individuals, reintegration into the community following their release is typically a difficult process, and frequently ex-offenders wind up back in prison. For incarcerated military veterans, reentry comes with additional challenges. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office designed and implemented a new 60-90 day holistic reentry program targeting veterans in Harris County jail that mimics some of the structure of the military, including barrack-style living, plus offers case workers, job skills training, and connections with outside services. We’re working with Texas Policy Lab to conduct a comprehensive review of existing literature on reentry programs, particularly those designed for veterans. TPL is also conducting a rigorous evaluation of the Harris County jail veteran’s program and its effect on post-release employment, recidivism, and psychological well-being. While the bulk of the evaluation data isn’t available until after the school year, we’re performing initial analyses on preliminary data, such as identifying factors that most influence a veteran’s optimism and hope going into the program.
A Veterans’ Support Organization Looks for Help Evaluating Its Service Model
In nearly all other communities, veterans of the U.S. armed services have to seek out multiple different non-profit groups to find help with employment, housing, health care, community involvement, and all of their other needs. Houston, however, is the home of a one-stop agency, Combined Arms, that acts as a "front door" to the city for newly arriving veterans. After an intake survey, agency employees assess the veterans' individualized needs, then refer them to the most appropriate service providers from all over the city. Our Capstone team makes regular visits to the agency and works with their data to help evaluate the effectiveness of this unique model of serving veterans' needs – they hope to use our results to help raise funding and spread the model to other cities. We're also studying the research that's already out there for findings and insights that can improve the agency's work.
Education Researchers Study High School Career and Technical Education
Texas policy makers have recognized the evolving needs of the state’s workforce and identified ways that high schools can fill important educational gaps. One of the critical priorities is improved career and technical education (CTE) programs which prepare students for the workforce by providing career-specific content, hands-on experiences, and a pathway to certifications and licenses. We work closely with researchers at Rice’s Houston Education Research Consortium to evaluate CTE programs in 11 local school districts. We helped collect data on which programs, courses, and course content are available at each district and campus. We are using statistical software to clean and analyze this data so we can create a map that demonstrates how current CTE programs are distributed across the greater Houston area and assess how well they serve the community’s needs. (133)
Evaluating the Roll-Out of an Early Childhood Language Acquisition Program
The first few years of a child's life are critical for language acquisition, and their interactions with parents are particularly important to this development. Our group is working with the Texas Policy Lab to develop a tool to help evaluate how effectively a local school district is rolling out a brand new early-language intervention through group-based parenting classes. Policy makers call this step the fidelity of implementation (FOI). Late in the school year, we're also getting the first rounds of preliminary results of the intervention, and we’ll use that data to evaluate whether our FOI tool effectively identified points of growth. Our goal in creating and studying the FOI tool in this pilot program is to make sure TPL can confidently use it to evaluate implementation as the program gets rolled out over the next three years, and to measure how effectively this school-based intervention improves childhood language acquisition.