Student Reports

Spring 2009

Professor Douglas J. Besharov

In Spring 2009, students worked with clients at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, the Montgomery County Council, Montgomery and Fairfax Public Schools and IMPACT Silver Spring.

The following are the final projects prepared by the students. They are listed in order of clients and the names of the authors have been removed by request.

The course is required for all 48-credit (MPP) Social Policy students. Work must be completed by graduation.

IMPACT Silver Spring

1. Improving the Sustainability of IMPACT Silver Spring's Renter Development Program. This paper addresses the weaknesses of IMPACT Silver Spring's Renter Development Program, which was implemented to increase the capacity of renters to participate in decision-making affecting their community. The author finds that the Program's major weaknesses are its lack of sustainability and lack of participation by property managers, who play a key role in community-building. The Program's training programs are effective, but IMPACT does not follow up with the participants once they leave the program, minimizing the long-term effects of the program.

The author recommends that IMPACT Silver Spring expand outreach to create stronger ties between Program graduates and property managers and outlines a course of action including an open luncheon and a one-time training program for property managers.

Montgomery County Council

2. Including Family Day Care Providers in Maryland's Preschool for All: Options and Recommendations. This paper analyzes the Montgomery County Council's recommendation to include family day care providers in the implementation of the State of Maryland's universal pre-k program, Preschool for All. The author examines potential models for implementation of such a policy, including an analysis of school readiness data and strategies to reach children who do not qualify for pre-k programs.

Upon discovering the majority of Montgomery County children at this age receive informal care at home, the author recommends and describes the implementation of a model that would allow the inclusion of family care providers in the Preschool for All program, but would also cater to children who do not participate in licensed family care through a Community Connections model.

Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services

3. Analysis and Recommendations for Client Information Confidentiality Issues Related to Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services' Service Integration Initiative. This paper assesses the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) new service integration initiative, which is meant to increase interaction between the DHHS and the community's most vulnerable populations. The author finds that service integration has been restricted by federal and state confidentiality laws and proposes legal options for overcoming the limitations they place on DHHS employees.

Following an analysis of each option, the author recommends to the County a combination of these options, including a reevaluation of state and federal confidentiality law interpretation and informed consent agreements in DHHS services, lobbying the State to include confidentiality exceptions and exploring new technology to protect confidentiality.

Paper   Presentation

4. A Cultural and Linguistic Competency Assessment Tool for Montgomery County's Health and Human Services Department. This paper responds to the problem of Montgomery County Health and Human Services Department delivering disproportional services to different ethnic and racial groups. The author reviews this evidence and argues that the Department must develop an assessment tool which identifies its strengths and weaknesses in delivering culturally and linguistically competent care.

The author evaluates six existing cultural and linguistic competency assessment tools and recommends that the strengths from all six tools be combined into a new model that includes questions such as the staff's biases and attitudes toward minorities, the agency's policies toward cultural and linguistic competency, the data collected by the agency regarding its clients, and the agency's use of translators.

Paper   Presentation
Montgomery County Public Schools

5. George B. Thomas Academy and Parent Involvement. This paper presents policy options to the George B. Thomas Learning Academy (GBTLA) for improving the academic achievement of its at-risk students. GBTLA is one of many Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) that suffer from a severe achievement gap between the highest and lowest performing racial and socio-economic groups. Since increasing parent involvement in education is a key contribution to improving academic success, MCPS has implemented initiatives to promote parent interaction in the learning process. The author evaluates the initiatives and finds they fail to directly engage parents of at-risk students.

Responding to GBTLA's desire for a policy improving parent involvement with the express goal of reducing the achievement gap in student success, the author then evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the GBTLA curriculum and administration and recommends strategies to help meet its goals. Suggested strategies include staff support, parent workshops, motivational sessions, and home communications.

Paper   Presentation

6. Universal Breakfast Programs in Montgomery County. This paper, directed to the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Director of Food and Nutrition Services, addresses the MCPS's options for replacing its Maryland Meals for Achievement universal breakfast program with a more cost-effective solution. The author reviews research demonstrating mixed conclusions concerning the effectiveness of universal breakfast programs, but finds that nutritionally at-risk students benefit significantly.

The author presents four options, which are evaluated for cost, implementation challenges, and potential impact on the achievement gap, and recommends adapting existing programs to overcome barriers to access and attempting to obtain additional federal reimbursement by individually reviewing schools to determine if the number of free and reduced price eligible students triggers assistance for universal coverage.

Montgomery County Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools

7. The Cost of Excellence. This paper, directed to Montgomery and Fairfax County Public Schools (MCPS and FCPS), analyzes data showing that FCPS spends less per pupil than MCPS. Spending data is used to determine where FCPS saves money compared to MCPS and whether the savings are significant. District organization, school characteristics, and district and subgroup achievement trends are analyzed to determine which district has had higher overall achievement and which was making bigger gains in subgroup level achievement. Specific attention is given to differences in the districts' scale and demographic landscapes that affect both the cost of providing education as well as subgroup-level achievement.

The author finds that spending and achievement in MCPS is not significantly higher than FCPS' spending once accounting for scale and demographics.

Paper   Presentation

Back to top