Research Methods for the RAND Correctional Education Project

How the Project is Being Conducted

To meet the project objectives, RAND assembled a team of experts in correctional education, public safety, prisoner reentry, education, and vocational training. Throughout the study, RAND sought input from representatives of the Correctional Education Association (CEA) and from correctional education practitioners.

The study was conducted across the six tasks listed here, and was completed in 2014.

  1. Assessing the correctional education landscape
  2. Systematic literature review
  3. Scientific review and ratings of studies
  4. Meta-analysis
  5. Survey of state correctional education directors
  6. Case studies of promising practices

Our first step entailed getting a "lay of the land" by reviewing the general literature and conducting key stakeholder interviews and focus group discussions with state correctional education directors for both adults and juveniles. We also conducted a systematic literature review of correctional education programs, using online databases and (where needed) contacting authors directly for difficult-to-locate studies and unpublished studies. We used both the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale and the Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse evidence scale to undertake a scientific review of these studies and rate the strength of causal evidence they provide about the effectiveness of programs and interventions.

Information from the systematic review of the literature and the scientific review of studies was used to inform a meta-analysis of correctional education interventions to identify programs and program components associated with positive outcomes.

As final steps, we conducted a survey of state correctional education directors to gather data on the current correctional education system and to understand the impact of fiscal budget cuts.