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The Feasibility of Pay-For-Success as a Financing Strategy to Scale Evidence-Based Practices in Early Childhood.

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Pay For Success (PFS) is an innovative financing approach that is currently being explored as a way to support early childhood programs and services as well as other types of prevention programs. The U.S. government recently approved 100 million in funding to expand the use of PFS; this approach is gaining in prominence and deserves the attention of policy analysts. In brief, PFS uses public-private partnerships to support evidence-based programs or interventions that can achieve positive outcomes. Private and/or philanthropic investors provide upfront funding to pay for the program or intervention. If the program achieves specific agreed-upon positive outcomes, as determined by an independent evaluator, government pays back the investors; if not, the investors do not get paid back.
This poster will share results from one federally-funded study that examined the feasibility of using PFS to expand implementation of an evidence-based framework that supports children with challenging behavior (the Pyramid Model) to a broader early childhood population. Currently the Pyramid Model is being implemented in 66 districts in Minnesota, largely in early childhood special education sites. This study examined the feasibility of a proposed expansion of the Pyramid Model into the state’s voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) programs (n = 115 districts). The feasibility of using PFS as an approach to expand the Pyramid Model was examined across six indicators; (1) data accessibility, (2) target population needs assessment, (3) research evidence for proposed outcomes, (4) potential challenges to implementing the model, (5) benefit-cost analysis of the intervention and (6) willingness of potential PFS partners to engage in a project. The research team employed a mixed methods approach to examine the overall feasibility of the project, studying each indicator in depth using existing administrative data at the child, school and district level as well as interviews with key stakeholders.
Overall, the feasibility of using PFS to expand the Pyramid Model in Minnesota is promising. The needs assessment confirmed that VPK programs serve a high-needs population: compared to the state average, VPK schools had higher rates of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch (41% vs. 61%) and over twice the percentage of children who were classified as limited English proficient (12% vs. 25%). 54% of students in the program are of a minority background. There was sufficient research evidence to support potential impacts of introducing the Pyramid Model on the following outcomes, (1) more growth in child assessment scores in social-emotional and academic domains from entry to exit from preschool, (2) less chronic absenteeism in K-3, (3) reduction in use of special education services in K–3, (4) better performance on state achievement tests in grade 3 and (5) less grade retention in K–3. A prospective benefit-cost analysis found a positive benefit-cost ratio of between 1.24 and 1.27. Areas of challenge included garnering public will for such a project, and finding a politically-connected leader able to spearhead the effort. Implications for use of outcomes-based financing to fund early childhood programming will be discussed.

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