Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion

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  1. Participation and Savings Patterns in the Wabash County Promise Scholarship Program: The First Three Years

    The Community Foundation of Wabash County’s Promise Scholarship program (Promise Scholars) was conceived and implemented with the goal of improving educational outcomes by providing opportunities to earn scholarship awards at a much earlier stage than traditional scholarship programs. More than just a commitment, deposits are awarded directly into the child’s 529 as they are earned. This approach deviates in important ways from traditional college savings account programs, traditional scholarship programs, and even early commitment scholarship programs. In Promise Scholars, children not only receive a CSA, but they also receive early award scholarships directly, and immediately, rather than as the promise of money in the future.

    This report provides an update to 2017 Participation and Savings Patterns in the Wabash County Promise Scholarship Program: Year 1 (O’Brien, Elliott, Lewis & Jung, 2018). The initial 2017 report included all 4th - 8th graders in Wabash County during the 2016-2017 academic year, which also served as the first year of the Wabash County Promise Scholars program. Accumulated savings in Promise Indiana 529s, Promise Scholarship awards and match, and free/reduced lunch status provided by the schools were used to obtain a cross-sectional view of the impact of the first program year. For the current report, we examine enrollment, savings behaviors, and asset accumulation for participants who enrolled in Promise Scholars during the first three academic years of the program: 2016/2017, 2017/2018, and 2018/2019. As with the first report, we include scholarship earnings, 529 savings data to date, as well as free/reduced lunch status provided by the schools to compare savings outcomes across program participants and non-participants and across poor and non-poor families.

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    Megan O’Brien, Haotian Zheng, William Elliott

    Report Year 2020

  2. Poverty and performance on standardized tests in Rhode Island and Massachusetts: Implications for policy reform

    Improving educational outcomes for Rhode Island’s K-12 students is essential for the future of the state. While not an end in themselves, standardized tests can be used to measure school and statewide progress and guide accountability efforts. While extensive research has examined how student, family, school, and community factors influence test performance, one factor sticks out: student poverty (Reardon (2011;) (Carnoy & Garcia, 2017;) (Ford, 2011, (Kornrich & Furstenberg (2013;) (Duncan & Murnane, 2011). Because poverty is so closely related to performance, the failure to account for poverty can lead to misleading assessments of school performance, distorting policy efforts.

    However, the relationship between poverty and school performance in Rhode Island, and how this should guide policy, is not well understood. Rhode Island currently uses standardized test data to comply with national reporting, benchmark performance, and identify opportunities for improvement. Expecting a fixed level of academic achievement for a certain amount of educational investment per student neglects the substantial variation in student experience and competency due to unequal family resources. A more nuanced understanding of the relationship between poverty and education would help to isolate schools that are performing well, and poorly, relative to their students’ poverty rate. Understanding the performance of Rhode Island relative to Massachusetts, a wealthy state and national leader in education reform, can help to elucidate the role of poverty in driving achievement gaps.

    In this context, we used data on student poverty and 2018-2019 standardized test performance for elementary, middle, and high school students in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to examine the relationship between school district-level poverty and performance.

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    Timothy P. Ryan, PhD, Emily Rauscher, PhD, Fredrick Schockaert, EdD

    Working Paper Year 2020

  3. Reimagining College Promise Programs: A Wealth Perspective

    Education is one of the largest investments America makes in reducing poverty and promoting economic mobility. From this perspective, education is perceived by many as a long-term strategy for achieving individual, family, and intergenerational prosperity; a tool for increasing overall productivity; and an engine of economic growth on which our collective fortunes depend. However, like poverty policies in America, education policies have largely focused on providing children with enough financial aid to survive, not enough to thrive. This brief will argue that to deliver on the promise of money, we posit that a better notion of free is to provide low-income and underserved students with targeted ongoing deposits into a Children’s Savings Account from an early age. Further, we should consider integrating this long-term strategy with a long-term education investment, like College Promise (frequently referred to as “free college”) programs, to reverse this damaging trend, build a college going culture within families and their communities, and remove economic barriers to higher education and adult success.

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    William Elliott, Sophia Nielsen

    Brief Year 2020