December project update

December will see us finishing up one project (for this year, at least) and plugging away on some of our ongoing work. We’ll also be serving as editors of the next newsletter of the National Dropout Prevention Center, the topic of which–quite appropriately, for us–is urban issues in education. We look forward to sharing that early next year!

1. HOPE VI evaluation

We just submitted our first annual evaluation report to the Taunton Housing Authority for review and feedback; once it is finalized, we’ll be sure to share our findings here and on our website. Beginning in early spring, we’ll get started with the second year of evaluation by conducting another round of focus groups and interviews with the same 25 heads of households who participated in interviews last year.

2. SouthCoast Veterans needs assessment

We kicked off the surveying component of this needs assessment, being done in partnership with New Bedford’s Veteran’s Transition House, at New Bedford’s Veterans Day Parade. There, we had the opportunity to test out the survey questions with the help of a handful of Veterans who were attending or participating in the parade. This allowed us to determine whether questions needed rewording or clarification. On Thanksgiving, we sent out about 160 surveys with meals delivered to the homes of area Vets by the VTH and a cadre of volunteers (including our own Mike McCarthy!). We will continue to distribute surveys far and wide across the SouthCoast this month, and we hope we’ll soon begin entering results into our statistical software (SPSS).

3. SouthCoast health planning dashboard

We’re continuing to add content to the site that will serve as a planning dashboard for SouthCoast public health stakeholders. This includes data related to health outcomes in the region, data collected by the organizations sponsoring the site, resources where users can get more information, and resources to aid the original research efforts of public health stakeholders (like survey tools and best practices).

4. LifeWork project

While we wait for end-of-semester data that will show how LifeWork participants fared in their first semester at BCC, we’ll be developing a Salesforce database with which to track participant progress and share updates with key project partners. This should help the LifeWork project sustain evaluation efforts in years to come, and it should also help project staff and partners quickly gauge (and respond to) the project’s progress toward its goals.

5. National Dropout Prevention Center newsletter

We’ve been asked to edit the NDPC’s newsletter with a focus on urban issues affecting education and dropout. If you have ideas or would like to contribute content, get in touch!

2013 voter turnout in Gateway Cities

We’ll update the following graph as more data becomes available. Worth noting that mayoral contest in New Bedford was uncontested (but still…)

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November project update

November updates include a new project (with New Bedford’s Veteran’s Transition House) and a project where the deliverable was, well, delivered, but the problem–college access in the SouthCoast–is anything but solved. Instead, we may have more questions than answers, which means we’ll spend the month trying to decide what’s next.

1. Needs assessment of SouthCoast Veterans

Undergraduate research assistant Mike McCarthy has developed–and will manage–his first project, which responds to a request by the Veteran’s Transition House for a white paper documenting the met and unmet needs of the region’s Veteran population. The project will entail an analysis of existing data on Veterans in the region, but its keystone is a survey we’ll be conducting to learn what the existing data doesn’t tell us when it comes to Veterans’ current and impending needs. Mike will be looking to disseminate the survey to organizations and groups engaged with Vets across the region; if you’re interested in learning more, supporting the surveying effort, or receiving a report on the results, contact him.

2. SouthCoast health planning dashboard

Web design for this project–a site that serves as a clearinghouse for data, research, and resources related to public health in the SouthCoast–is underway. We look forward to sharing test pages and links with our partners soon, and the final product with you soon thereafter!

3. HOPE VI evaluation

Next month, we’ll submit our first annual report related to the impact of Taunton’s HOPE VI project on residents of the since-demolished Fairfax Gardens housing development on Dewert Avenue, the neighborhood, and the City of Taunton. The report will include updated statistics (compared to baseline data presented in July 2012) as well as findings from focus groups and a interviews with 25 heads of household.

4. Faculty/student partnerships

Undergraduates in Professor Sarah Cosgrove’s Urban Economics class are hard at work wrapping up three projects that the UI helped coordinate: two involve breaking down the costs of vacant properties in a neighborhood in Fall River and a neighborhood in New Bedford, respectively, while one is aimed at determining the feasibility and economic impact of connecting UMass Dartmouth students to New Bedford’s downtown in the evenings and on weekends. We look forward to sharing their findings at the end of the semester.

5. LifeWork project

The LifeWork project’s first semester is wrapping up; soon we’ll be gathering data on participants’ academic performance and combining this with baseline data to provide a report on the first cohort of students.

6. College accessHigh school interns present college access research

Last Friday, three of our 2013 high school interns presented their report on college access in the SouthCoast. They did a fantastic job sharing their findings and fielding questions from the audience, which was dynamic and engaged if smaller than we had hoped for. Indeed, one of the findings of this project is that there isn’t a committed cohort of stakeholders in the region that is working to improve college access. The few programs that do exist weren’t represented, and even the high school students had difficulty getting information about them.

This is obviously problematic on a few levels, chief among which is the fact that one of the biggest hurdles to economic development in the SouthCoast is our low level of adult educational attainment (fewer than 15 percent of adults in our cities have a Bachelor’s degree). So what do we do next? We’ll be thinking about this over the next month, and we more than welcome your ideas.