Gulf states updates, resources, and events from RAND

RAND Gulf States Policy Institute Newsletter

January 2015

A periodic report on the activities of the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute

From the Director

Gary Cecchine

Traditionally, the beginning of a new year is the start of new ventures, and in this vein, RAND is pleased to announce the establishment of the new Water and Climate Resilience Center. The Center will address one of our region's most significant policy challenges: How do we plan, build, and organize our societal systems to become more resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change?

The Center is co-led by David Groves and Jordan Fischbach, who worked with Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to develop the 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. Both researchers and other RAND colleagues are currently assisting CPRA with the updated 2017 master plan and performing related research not only in the Gulf but also in the Nation.

Also of note in early 2015 is RAND Gulf States Policy Institute's work with local educators and educational programs. For example, Heather Schwartz, a RAND researcher based in the New Orleans office, is working with New Orleans-based Leading Educators, a national two-year fellowship program that develops teachers for leadership positions, to evaluate its program's effectiveness. The study will examine whether teacher graduates of Leading Educators improve student achievement and whether they are more likely to remain in high-need urban schools.

You can read more about RAND's education policy work here. The "Spotlight" section below highlights RAND's recent work with educators, schools, and other stakeholders seeking to understand and close the "digital divide" that separates low-income students and their more-advantaged peers.

Finally, I would like to wish you, your families, and the Gulf States region all the best for 2015. As always, please reach out to me directly at cecchine@rand.org with questions or ideas as to how we may support you and your community.


Gary Cecchine, Ph.D.
Director of Research, RAND Gulf States Policy Institute

FOCUS ON . . . YOUNG CHILDREN AND CLOSING THE 'DIGITAL DIVIDE'

Kindergarten girls using computer

From mouse manipulation to the alphabet, the Internet can provide young children access to all sorts of interactive learning opportunities and information. Not all screen time is quality time, of course, but as technology use becomes increasingly prominent in K-12 settings and the workplace, online learning activities for children ages 3 to 5 can build the digital, literacy, mathematical, and social skills they will need to succeed.

Yet many young children living in low income and/or rural areas of the United States, including in our own Gulf Coast region, have inadequate access to technology, the Internet, and appropriate learning applications. The separation between those families with limited access from those with ready access is often referred to as the "digital divide." And according to a new RAND series, "T Is for Technology," closing the divide may play a critical role in helping to offset other educational disparities:

…children from low-income families face the greatest challenges in skills development due to disparities that appear at a young age, and they might experience the greatest benefits from these new opportunities for learning and engagement.

Who can help facilitate digital inclusion among young children–and how can they proceed? On May 20, 2014, the RAND research team, led by Lindsay Daugherty and Rafiq Dossani, brought together technology and early childhood education experts, educators, and others to answer these questions. The forum discussions focused on issues outlined in a March 2014 report, Using Early Childhood Education to Bridge the Digital Divide, including the appropriate role of technology in early childhood education and the ability of early technology use to address the digital divide.

We urge to you to examine the five reader-friendly briefs that summarize some of the key messages that emerged from the May 2014 forum. Here, we briefly present what several primary stakeholders can do to move forward in addressing the problem:

The U.S. government can seek to transform young children's access to technology. In the past two decades, policymakers have focused on ensuring access to digital technologies, such as computers and tablets, for children from low-income families in K-12 settings through schools and public libraries. More recently, the government has focused on bandwidth access in schools. Policymakers have proposed a number of initiatives to make bandwidth access more affordable to low-income families, such as the 2010 National Broadband Plan. However, these do not specifically target parents of young children.

Early education providers can help families engage young children with digital technology at home. Research shows that parents of low-income families are less able to afford digital technologies than those with higher incomes and, as a result, may not know about or be able to assist children with educational applications. For example, one study found that 35 percent of lower-income parents had downloaded educational software for their child, whereas 75 percent of higher-income parents had done so. Early childhood education providers, such as preschools and child-care centers, often work closely with families to support the learning of young children, with a particular focus on supporting parents of low-income children. To ensure that all families are prepared to support children, early childhood providers may supplement devices and software owned by the family and open up opportunities for parental participation through digital means. In addition, teachers can model effective technology use to ensure that parents are equipped to provide support in the home.

Individual educators can serve as digital knowledge facilitators for children of low-income families. Unlike their wealthier peers, children from low-income families may not have the advantage of educated parents who can spend considerable effort on introducing them to the digital world. Yet, teachers can help bridge this gap. In fact, teachers' ability to properly facilitate technology use has been shown to be an important determinant in whether technology leads to positive impacts on learning. To be an effective facilitator, teachers should understand the use of technology, be trained on appropriate software applications matched to the capabilities of the children, and be trained and supported to provide the guidance needed to introduce children to digital technologies.

OTHER RAND RESEARCH

RAND Gulf States is an integral part of the RAND Corporation and its more than 1,200 researchers working around the world on many topics that are relevant to our Gulf States community. Below is a sample of recent research that may be of interest to you:

Hurricane Sandy and Guidelines for Infrastructure Resilience

Hurricane Sandy residential destruction

The Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force developed guidelines to ensure that federal agencies incorporate key principles of resilience into their formulation, evaluation, and prioritization of infrastructure investments related to Sandy rebuilding. RAND's initial assessment of the implementation of the guidelines identifies opportunities and challenges.

Full Document


What Does Ebola Mean for Disaster Preparedness?

Participants practice a medical procedure on a dummy arm during training

Crafting an effective, whole-community strategy to respond to Ebola could stop the spread of the disease now and lay groundwork for responses to future outbreaks and other emergencies. In the long run, this could make public preparedness and resilience valuable assets for the U.S.

Blog Post

About Us

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute provides objective analysis to federal, state, and local leaders in support of evidence-based policymaking and the well-being of individuals throughout the U.S. Gulf States region.

We invite your suggestions for researchers, projects, centers, and funding or collaboration opportunities to highlight in future issues. Write to director Gary Cecchine at cecchine@rand.org.

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