Improving Outcomes – Research, Strategy, Evaluation, Policy

September 2, 2015 / About Us / 0 Comments /

RESEARCH | MDP provides research support to $70 Million in grant-funded projects.

STRATEGY | MDP provides strategy support and training for eight initiatives.

EVALUATION | MDP evaluations are designed to link three levels of thinking: the strategic focus of funders, the quality of grantee implementation efforts, and demonstrated outcomes for participants and communities.

POLICY | MDP research results help to inform decisions about the future of investments in our community. We share our findings and their policy implications in order to encourage the growth of a culture of evidence and to fuel policy engagement.


High-quality early interventions are the smartest community investments.

May 19, 2015 / Data, National Data / 0 Comments /

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High quality early interventions lower the impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and show a return on investment of 6:1.

Key strategies include:

  • Parent education and coaching
  • Home visitation
  • Quality early childhood care and education
  • Pre-kindergarten

Total economic lifetime benefits include:

  • Increased lifetime net earnings
  • Increased tax revenue
  • Reduced health care and mortality costs
  • Public system savings

These are conservative estimates that primarily focus on the quantifiable ECONOMIC return on investment and don’t take into account the opportunity and psychological costs of remedial education, toxic stress, etc.

Source: Diaz, Jose Y. “Prospective Return on Investment of the Northside Achievement Zone.”Amherst H. Wilder Foundation (2015): 12-14. 15 Feb. 2015. Web.

Nurturing Parenting Program: Pre-Kindergarten Pilot Implementation

April 2, 2015 / Briefs 2015 / 0 Comments /

The Nurturing Parenting (NP) pilot project is an effort to evaluate the incorporation of intentional positive parenting information in selected Shelby County Schools (SCS) Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) classrooms. This program is designed to instill positive, nurturing child-rearing attitudes, beliefs, and practices among parents.

Read more in our mid-year report.

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Download mid-year report (PDF, 2015-Mar)


Long-acting reversible contraceptives reduce teen pregnancy and teen parenthood.

March 16, 2015 / National Data / 0 Comments /


Accountability for student performance goes well beyond teachers and schools

January 7, 2015 / Briefs 2015 / 0 Comments /

Ensuring that our community’s children have high-quality teachers and schools is absolutely critical to student success. However, children are not just products of their schools, but also of their families and communities.

We know that children from impoverished backgrounds are at risk for poor school performance. From early childhood through adolescence, this performance gap only grows wider as children progress through school. Teachers and schools are left battling the headwinds of poor out-of-school developmental and educational support for their students as this performance gap continually widens. Children from poverty often do not have the same family or community support that many middle-income children have.

Therefore, policies to improve educational (as well as health) outcomes must also address family and community factors. High quality pre-kindergarten is vitally important for young children, especially those from at-risk backgrounds. However, when high quality pre-kindergarten is combined with strong home and community “wrap-around” services, the benefits are only magnified. Organizations that advocate for a holistic civic infrastructure that supports children from cradle-to-career understand how important family and community are to children’s success in school, career, and life.

Research shows us that success builds upon success. However, we can’t expect schools to “go it alone.” To foster success among our children, we must hold ourselves, our families, and our communities as accountable as we hold our teachers and schools.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2015-Jan)


The Nurturing Parenting (NP) program is designed to foster positive parenting practices within families.

December 12, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

The Pathways to Success Partnership, a joint collaboration between Shelby County Schools (SCS) and the Urban Child Institute, has been researching factors associated with positive early childhood development, kindergarten readiness, and later academic achievement for several years.
Recently, they teamed with the PeopleFirst Initiative and the Early Success Coalition to study whether implementing an intentional positive parenting program in selected SCS pre-kindergarten (pre-k) classrooms will positively impact children’s success in school, as well as the interactions that parents and teachers have with those children.

The results of this study will help to inform whether implementation of an NP-informed curriculum will help to foster positive parenting practices and, in doing so, support children’s development and kindergarten readiness.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-05)


Social-Emotional Development in Pre-kindergarteners and Kindergarteners

December 5, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

The Pathways to Success Partnership recently joined with PeopleFirst and the Early Success Coalition to look at the influence of social and emotional development on school readiness. Positive early childhood development is both a characteristic and foundation of healthy families and healthy communities. When young children grow up with positive early experiences, healthy families, and nurturing homes and environments, they are set upon a positive trajectory for healthy development and a healthy life course. Positive early development serves as a predictor of later measures of success.

For these reasons, learning more about the constellation of factors involved in early socio-emotional development is an important policy matter for families with young children, for schools and school districts, and for our community at large.

In the fall of 2014, the study group asked parents of children registering for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten at six schools in Shelby County to complete a one-page questionnaire about their children’s behaviors. The questions centered on behaviors regarding three sub-scales of socio-emotional development:

  • attachment
  • initiative, and
  • self-control.
Our findings help illustrate how young students entering school are fairing in terms of socio-emotional development in Shelby County.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-04)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools


Family Routines and Positive Parenting Practices Help to Support Kindergarten Readiness

October 22, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

In a recent analysis, the Shelby County Schools (SCS) and The Urban Child Institute (UCI) study group looked at the ways family routines and other positive parenting practices support the readiness of new kindergarten students. Research tells us that family routines, like regular bedtime or mealtime routines, help children develop self-control and self-confidence. Family routines also help strengthen children’s early language and literacy skills.

When it comes to these routines, it seems that more is better.

When families have a range of daily routines that involve both parents and children, those children are more likely to develop strong social and emotional skills, and reach school with more powerful language, academic, and social skills.

Last fall, we asked parents of incoming kindergarteners to tell us about their family routines. Parents were asked how often they engaged in different types of routines with their pre-schoolers, like getting ready in the morning, getting ready for bedtime, or at mealtimes. Parents were also asked about a range of other positive parenting practices, like reading with their children, singing the alphabet, and playing counting and sorting games.

Parents’ responses were then compared to their children’s kindergarten readiness scores. Each fall, incoming kindergarteners in Shelby County are given a measure of reading readiness called the Istation Early Reading  assessment, which helps the district see if a student is performing at grade level, moderately below grade level, or severely below grade level. For this study, we compared the Istation Early Reading scores of 354 new kindergarteners with information on family routines collected from their parents.

The results are telling.

When families establish and try to keep to regular routines – particularly around getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bed – their children are significantly more likely to reach kindergarten on grade level for Istation Early Reading.

These findings are good news for parents because they offer small ways that we can all support our children’s school readiness.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-03)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools


Lessons from the Washington State Adverse Childhood Experiences Public-Private Initiative (APPI)

October 2, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Washington State, in partnership with the Casey Family Foundation, has designed a coordinated effort to prevent and mitigate the influence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on child development, family functioning, and community well-being.

The Washington State Adverse Childhood Experiences Public-Private Initiative (APPI) is a carefully designed set of organizational partnerships aligning community-based approaches to preventing and mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

»APPI approaches prevention and mitigation of ACEs through a focus on individual, family, community, system, and cost reduction change.

Download full brief about APPI (PDF, 09/2014)
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Restorative Justice and Circles

August 5, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice (RJ) is an approach to justice where the focus is on repairing the harm caused by an offense. It is based on the belief that the way to attain justice is by problem solving, not by punishment or retaliation. RJ is a cooperative process that involves three main stakeholders – the victim, the offender, and the affected community – with all taking an active role in the restorative process. The stakeholders engage in meaningful discussion and cooperative decision making, in search of answers that help repair, rebuild, and, ultimately, reconcile the affected relationships.

Download full brief about
Restorative Justice (PDF, 08/2014)

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Circles as a restorative practice

A circle is a restorative practice that can be used to develop relationships or it can be used to repair relationships that have been damaged by wrongdoing or conflict. The circle process gives people an opportunity to speak and listen to one another in an atmosphere of safety, dignity, and fairness, while telling their stories from their own viewpoints. Circles incorporate the idea that every individual is part of a community and that individual actions affect those within that community emotionally, economically, and physically. Circles can be used for many purposes, including conflict resolution, healing, support, decision making, information exchange, and relationship development.

Download full brief about
Circles (PDF, 08/2014)

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