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La Follette School of Public Affairs director wins $3 million federal grant

June 18, 2009 By Karen Faster

La Follette School of Public Affairs director Carolyn Heinrich has won a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to expand her evaluation of federally mandated tutoring programs in public schools.


The four-year grant will help Heinrich continue an evaluation of the tutoring programs the Milwaukee Public Schools offers as part of the district’s fulfillment of the federal No Child Left Behind law. This 2001 federal law requires public schools that have not made adequate yearly progress in increasing student academic achievement for three years to offer children in low-income families the opportunity to receive extra academic assistance in the form of supplemental educational services or tutoring.

Heinrich’s initial research found that Milwaukee’s federally mandated and funded tutoring program is not necessarily reaching the people who need the help the most, nor is it effective in increasing student achievement. “Our preliminary results suggest that the students in the tutoring programs are not performing any better on Wisconsin’s standardized tests than eligible students not involved with the tutoring,” Heinrich says.

The initial study, available as La Follette School Working Paper No. 2000-010, integrated qualitative and quantitative data from a large-scale study of supplemental educational services offered as part of the No Child Left Behind Act. She and her co-workers have been conducting this large-scale study of tutoring programs in Milwaukee Public Schools since April 2006.

The next phase will involve five urban school districts in four states: Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Dallas and Austin in Texas. Heinrich and her team, including co-investigators Robert Meyer and Patricia Burch, will examine how state and local educational agency activities influence the implementation of tutoring programs — including curriculum and instructional practices and policy and administration — and the impact they have on students’ academic outcomes (as measured by changes in test scores, course grades and grade point averages).

The grant will enable Heinrich to employ academic staff and at least four graduate students each year to work on the project.

Heinrich, a professor of public affairs and an affiliated professor of economics, is an internationally recognized expert on social welfare policy, public management and the evaluation of social programs. She works directly with governments at all levels, including an evaluation of federal workforce development programs, the state of Wisconsin on a child-support demonstration program, and the governments of Brazil and South Africa on their social welfare and development programs. In addition to teaching, she is associate director for research and training at UW–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty.