Jennifer Sloan McCombs

Photo of Jennifer McCombs
Director, Behavioral and Policy Sciences Department; Senior Policy Researcher
Washington Office


Ph.D. in public policy, The George Washington University; B.A. in East Asian studies, College of William and Mary

Media Resources

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Jennifer McCombs is a senior policy researcher and director of the Behavioral and Policy Sciences Department at the RAND Corporation. Her research focuses on evaluating the extent to which public policies and programs improve outcomes for children and youth facing disadvantage. Her studies combine implementation and outcome data to provide practitioners and policymakers guidance on how to improve programs and promote positive outcomes. McCombs has extensive experience leading complex, multi-site evaluations that involve substantial stakeholder engagement and district-community partnerships. She is currently leading a studying examining how intermediary organizations design and implement DEI-focused school improvement networks focused on creating equitable outcomes for students who are Black, Latinx, or from families with low incomes. She is completing a longitudinal study of five urban districts’ summer learning programs. The study included a randomized controlled trial, extensive implementation data collection and analyses, and formative guidance to districts and their community partners. Over the course of her career, she has studied how to improve teacher effectiveness (through professional development, teacher training, and incentives); whether literacy coaching improves student reading outcomes; the development of systems for out-of-school-time programs; the implementation and impact of test-based promotion policies; and the effects of federal accountability policies on schools, classrooms, and students. McCombs is a frequently advisor on summer and after school and served as a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Summertime Experiences and Child and Adolescent Education, Health, and Safety; the National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment (NCASE) Technical Work Group; the National Summer Learning Association Research Advisory Committee; and Horizon’s National Research Advisory Group. As director of the Behavioral and Policy Sciences Department, she is responsible for the hiring, professional growth, and support of over 200 professional researchers located in four major offices and in offsite locations. McCombs holds a Ph.D. in public policy from The George Washington University.

Recent Projects

  • Summer learning demonstration randomized controlled trail (RCT)
  • Intensive Partnership Sites evaluation
  • Out-of-school time systems building evaluation
  • New York City’s test-based promotion policy evaluation
  • Middle school reading coaches evaluation

Selected Publications

Augustine, C.H, McCombs, J.S., Pane, J.F., Schwartz, H.L, Schweig, J.S., McEachin, A., Siler-Evans, K. , Learning From Summer: Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-income Urban Youth, RAND (RR-1557-WF), 2016

McCombs, J.S., Pane, J, Augustine, C.H., Schwartz, H.L., and Zakaras, L, Ready for Fall? Near-Term Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Students Learning Opportunities and Outcomes, RAND (RR-815), 2014

Augustine, C.H., McCombs, J.S., Schwartz, H.L., and Zakaras, L, Getting to Work on Summer Learning, RAND (RR-366), 2013

McCombs, J.S., Augustine, C.H., Schwartz, H.L., Bodilly, S.J., McInnis, B., Lichter, D.S., and Cross, A, Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children's Learning, RAND (MG-1120), 2011

McCombs, J.S., Auger, A., Yoo, P, The Value of Out of School Time Programs, RAND (PE-267-WF), 2018

Jennifer Sloan McCombs et al., Hours of Opportunity: The Power of Data to Improve After-School Programs Citywide, RAND (MG-1037/1), 2010

Jennifer Sloan McCombs et. al., Ending Social Promotion Without Leaving Children Behind, RAND Corporation (MG-894), 2009

Jennifer Sloan McCombs et al., Achieving State and National Literacy Goals a Long Uphill Road: A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York, RAND Corporation (TR-180-1), 2005

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Education Week


  • Elementary schoolchildren wearing face masks in a classroom, photo by kevajefimija/Getty Images

    Commit Now to Get Summer Programming Right

    When summer programs are targeted to needs, intentionally designed, and well attended, they produce positive outcomes in math and reading. But these programs need federal support, and they require early planning.

    Apr 15, 2021 The RAND Blog

  • Students in the Munroe Elementary School after-school garden club show off plants they are going to plant in the school's garden in Denver, Colorado, May 9, 2012

    High-Quality Out-of-School-Time Programs Are Worthy of Investment

    High-quality out-of-school-time programs can benefit youth, and tend to produce outcomes linked to program content. Funders and policymakers could maximize benefits of these programs by providing adequate resources and funding to support quality programming. It could be a wise investment for America's youth.

    Nov 19, 2018 Youth Today

  • adult classroom

    Making Extended Learning Time Worth the Investment

    Five states are experimenting with adding a substantial amount of time to the school year in some schools. This policy initiative holds promise, says Jennifer McCombs

    Dec 14, 2012 The RAND Blog