Panel Paper: Early Impacts from a Randomized Trial of the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement

Friday, November 3, 2017
Columbian (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Howard Rolston1, Elizabeth Copson2 and Karen N Gardiner2, (1)Independent, (2)Abt Associates, Inc.

The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) was founded in 1995 to foster a match between the need for a skilled workforce in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and the needs of low-income adults for good jobs. The program follows a model initially developed by Project QUEST in San Antonio (and the subject of another paper on the proposed panel.) Like QUEST, VIDA supports and requires participants’ full-time enrollment in occupational training programs that lead to certificates and degrees in occupations with high local employer demand at the colleges with which it partners. The program provides (and requires that participants attend) very comprehensive and intensive weekly counseling services, as well as substantial financial assistance to support its participants’ successful completion of training.

Abt Associates and its partners are evaluating VIDA as part of the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) evaluation funded by the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. PACE includes (1) an implementation study that examines the design and operation of the program and participation patterns of its students and (2) an impact study that uses a random assignment methodology to determine the effects of the program on education and training, employment, and other outcomes of those assigned to the treatment group.

Between November 2011 and June 2014, VIDA staff used an Abt-provided online system to randomly assign 958 study participants: 478 to the treatment group and 480 to the control group. Current findings rely primarily on 24-36 months of follow-up in records from the colleges with which VIDA partners (99% of treatment group members and 98% of control group members attended such a college and no other), and a survey administered an average of 20 months after random assignment. Given the length of the program, focal outcomes are in the education domain, including college-level credits earned (the primary outcome), months of full-time enrollment, and credentials earned.

Impact findings in a draft report covering implementation of the program and early impacts reveal large, statistically significant effects on credits and credentials earned, approaching those of the of the CUNY ASAP program (the subject of another paper on the proposed panel). Effects on other educational outcomes are also consistently positive. (Please treat these as confidential as they have not yet been published.)

Subsequent reports will continue to assess effects on educational outcomes and also add employment as a focal domain. Effects will be estimated with 36-42 months and 72 months of follow-up.