New York City’s Young Adult Literacy Program: Case Study on Using Evidence for Improvement

The brief shows how the New York City Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) used research to evaluate and improve its Young Adult Literacy (YAL) program by adding in an internship component to the program. YAL serves youth and young adults aged 16 to 24 by providing reading, writing and math instruction in preparation for high school equivalency courses. Early evaluations demonstrated that the program was successful, but also struggling to retain participants. NYC Opportunity chose to add an internship component with participation based on youth reaching a certain attendance benchmark in their academic classes. Evaluations of this new component found that students who participated in the internship program had higher attendance and retention rates than students who did not participate. The case study offers numerous recommendations for other organizations looking to similarly use evidence for improvement purposes in their own work.

This case study is the third in a series of publications that focus on how policymakers can better use evidence to improve the lives of children, youth and their families. This series follows the Forum’s recent report Managing for Success: Strengthening the Federal Infrastructure for Evidence-Based Policymaking, which included a number of recommendations for how policymakers could better coordinate and strengthen the use of evidence across the federal government. This case study focuses on the third set of recommendations from that report: using evidence for improvement.