White Papers, Issue Briefs, and Articles

Our white papers, issue briefs, and articles spotlight areas of improvement for social policies and programs, changing the way we see the world a little bit at a time.


Promising Practices Brief: Improving Student Engagement and Attendance During COVID-19 School Closures

Nationwide school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have created an unprecedented level of activity in the online learning space. The move toward remote learning has created questions about whether and how attendance should be taken and measured in an online environment and the importance of meaningful remote engagement that leads to learning. In this promising practices brief, Insight and AIR share an overview of the research on engagement and attendance in online environments, and the findings from our conversations with five districts across the country about their efforts to support student attendance and engagement. This paper was funded by the US Department of Education’s national technical assistance center for addressing chronic absence. Read the Executive Summary HERE.


Students in Subbaccalaureate Health Sciences Programs: 2015–16

A new National Center for Education Statistics Data Point authored by Shannon Griffin and Albert Y. Liu examines the characteristics of students seeking subbaccalaureate credentials (certificates and associate’s degrees) in health sciences. Among subbaccalaureate occupational fields, health sciences was the most common field of study, enrolling more than one in three occupational education students, followed by business and marketing.


Labor Market Outcomes for High School Career and Technical Education Participants: 2016

This National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data point, authored by Rachel Holzwart and Albert Liu, examines how the early labor market outcomes of public high school graduates vary by the number of career and technical education (CTE) credits earned during high school. We found the unemployment rate for graduates with 3.00 or more CTE credits is less than their peers who earned fewer CTE credits. The Data Point is based on data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), which surveyed a nationally representative sample of grade 9 students in 2009, with follow-up data collections in 2012, 2013, and 2016. To view the full report, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2020060.


How Even the Best Evidence Can Yield Bad Decisions, and What We Can Do About It

While evaluation evidence is the best evidence for identifying “what works,” it is still imperfect. In evidence-based policymaking, the imperfections create a significant risk we will implement programs that do not work, and we will suffocate programs that do—or at least can—work. Numerous factors, including limitations of external validity, an overreliance on p-values and hypothesis testing, underpowered research, and even our intolerance for false positives can lead to incorrect conclusions. This paper discusses various ways evidence-based decisions can still be bad decisions. The paper identifies two trends that can address these shortcomings: the use of Bayesian statistical methods and continuous quality improvement. The paper concludes with six recommendations for strengthening evidence-based policymaking.