Panel Paper: Building Evidence across Generations of a Promising Youth Development Program: Year up

Friday, November 9, 2018
Jefferson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Fein, Abt Associates, Inc., Rebecca Maynard, University of Pennsylvania and Garrett A. R. Yursza Warfield, Year Up

This presentation summarizes findings from ongoing evaluations of two generations of the Year Up program—one of the nation’s foremost programs for low-income youth. The basic program model is based on six months of intensive training in high-demand technical fields (e.g., IT, business operations) and “soft” skills, followed by a six-month internship in a high-level professional setting.

Year Up’s original “core” program operates from stand-alone offices in eight major urban areas. A recent adaptation—Year Up’s next-generation Professional Training Corps (PTC) model—leverages college facilities and instructional capacity to reduce Year Up’s marginal costs, expand recruitment avenues, and access training in a wider array of fields. PTC pilots currently are operating on 15 college campuses.

In partnership with Year Up, researchers at Abt Associates and the University of Pennsylvania have developed a series of inter-related studies exploiting the possibilities for learning across the two generations of Year Up’s programs. Several federally-funded projects anchor this work, including a large random assignment study of Year Up’s stand-alone core program (part of HHS’s Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education evaluation) and two studies of Year Up’s Professional Training Corps—which adapts the core model for college settings to enhance scalability (funded by the Institute for Education Sciences and the Social Innovation Fund).

The first part of the presentation summarizes findings on the implementation and impacts of Year Up’s core program over a three-year follow-up period. Impact analyses apply to a sample of 2,544 young adults recruited in 2013-14 and draw on data from an 18-month follow-up survey, wage records from the National Directory of New Hires, and college enrollment records in the National Student Clearinghouse. The report establishes that Year Up had substantial impacts on earnings—the study’s confirmatory outcome—as well as important effects on a variety of other outcomes.

The second part of the presentation summarizes emerging findings from research on the PTC program that is blending improvement science with rigorous impact evaluation. It highlights experience developing and findings from several “mini-studies”—quick turnaround studies of priority implementation challenges identified by the program’s staff and college partner. The mini studies use different research methods to examine responses to each implementation challenge, while a separate RCT will measure the program’s overall efficacy. One mini-study uses a random assignment design to test improved responses to student academic difficulties at several sites, exemplifying how experiments can be used to both develop improvements and assess overall efficacy at different sites in the same program. The presentation closes with thoughts on lessons and benefits from sustaining close collaboration in research across multiple generations of promising programs.