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Grading School Voucher Programs

Why RCTs?: School Choice

Everyone seems to have an opinion on school choice. Those favoring or trying to forestall the dismantling of residential barriers have fought loud, hard battles in the states. Interestingly, these battles haven’t necessarily pitted political partisans against each other. The “choice” bloc recently witnessed a vocal spokesperson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, rise to prominence. She has advocated passionately for implementing more voucher systems and giving parents and students more perceived opportunity to succeed where the current public school system, some claim, clearly cannot.

A2J Lab “Behind the Experiment”: Dane County Part III

Today we present a final look at key field partners who have helped make the Dane County PSA RCT one of the A2J Lab’s signature series. Check out Part I and Part II as well!

In this installment, we are fortunate to share reflections from three officers of the court: Judge Juan Colás, Commissioner Jason Hanson, and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

Exciting Job Opp. at the National Center for Access to Justice

Our friends at the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) at Fordham Law School are hiring! They are looking for someone trained in law, policy analysis, or data analysis (or some mix of the three) to strengthen the Center’s Justice Index. See here for details about the position and how to apply.

From NCAJ’s job posting:

NCAJ is currently updating and expanding its Justice Index, writing a guide for civil legal aid organizations on using data to reveal the value of civil legal aid in people’s lives, and helping to implement UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 which calls on all countries of the world to use data to assure access to justice. The Justice Index, justiceindex.org, is NCAJ’s online tool that promotes reform in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. by using data to rank states on their degree of adoption of best policies and practices for access to justice.

The new staff member will contribute to NCAJ’s projects and to its growth as an institution. Activities include, among others, research, writing, data analysis, speaking, advocacy, grant writing and reporting, and supervision of volunteer attorneys and students.

Sounds exciting!

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A2J Lab “Behind the Experiment”: Dane County Part I

Last week, we marked the launch of our PSA RCT in Dane County, Wisconsin. Starting today, I will be pulling back the field experiment curtain, as it were, and introducing some of the A2J Lab’s field partners. These Dane County employees have worked tirelessly for almost two years to make the PSA’s implementation and our concurrent evaluation possible.

Ready, Set, Launch

Research Director Chris Griffin blogs from Wisconsin:

The day has finally arrived!

At this afternoon’s initial appearance court in Dane County, WI, the A2J Lab begins its evaluation of the Public Safety Assessment (“PSA”). Criminal process in this jurisdiction now includes additional, scientifically based information in a randomly selected subset of cases to inform pre-disposition release decisions. The judicial official–known here as a Commissioner–receives risk scores and a recommendation for release through the PSA and its static criminal history inputs to consider in reaching those decisions. Check out this video starring Lab affiliate Heidi Liu and yours truly to learn more about the science behind this RCT:

Something’s Fishy . . .

Pregnant women want to make sure they are taking every possible prenatal precaution to ensure their children’s healthy development. Although “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has both helped–and daunted–soon-to-be mothers over the years, doctors still advise them using evidence-based practices derived from rigorous medical testing and a culture of experimentation. The intended result is less adherence to urban legends and more confidence about prenatal health choices.

draftfishoil2Well, sort of. For years, obstetricians told women to take fish oil during their pregnancies. A key ingredient in fish oil is docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is considered integral to cognitive development. The logic was simple: mother takes fish oil, baby receives more DHA, and baby’s IQ rises! The plan sounded remarkably easy, and several observational studies touted its benefits. After all, who wouldn’t want to ensure their child’s acceptance to an elite university just by taking a pill?

You’ve Been Served

Who doesn’t love a great flowchart?! We at the A2J Lab certainly do. A few weeks ago, I posted about service of process in guardianship cases, illustrating via a (frankly overwhelming) diagram just how complicated the process is in the Boston area. Properly serving potentially interested parties is an important step in the petition process that is often glossed over. In fact, many petitioners often assume that filing the petition is all they have to do before showing up to court. But this disregards the essential notice that needs to be communicated in the meantime. When a legal issue is both overlooked and complex, we consider it ripe for innovation and evaluation in the name of access to justice.

Student Series: Active vs. Passive Intake

Students may be on spring break right now, but our Student Series is still here! There are over forty students working with the Lab on several projects, and so far the Student Series have brought you posts by students on different teams within the Financial Distress Research Project (FDRP). This week we hear from 2L Joe Breen, who has been constructing initial mailings to send to small claims court debt collection defendants to persuade them to answer their lawsuits and inquire about the FDRP study. The outreach directs people to legal help that’s available in the courthouse, offered by legal services providers. Joe discusses below an essential component of legal services organizations; intake and outreach. Not only have we written about these issues and how they relate to triage in our own blog posts, but our Faculty Director wrote an article on the specific issue Joe brings up below; the difference between active and passive structures of intake.

The A2J Lab Hits the Conference Circuit

A dispatch from Sophie, Chris & Erika

Over the last month, the A2J Lab decamped from snowy Boston to the rainy climes of Portland, OR for the National Association for Court Management (NACM) Midyear Meeting and blustery San Francisco for the first stand-alone Self-Represented Litigation Network (SRLN) conference. The former gathered court administrators from around the country to improve the public’s trust and confidence in the judiciary–a goal near and dear to the Lab. The latter opened with a keynote from Judge Lisa Foster, former Director of the DOJ Office for Access to Justice. She encouraged attendees to “create, innovate, [and] demonstrate” over two full days of discussions, research panels, and workshops regarding critical SRL issues.