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Welcome to our Research & Reports Page! Here you can find all of the reports published by the Urban Initiative as well as those conducted in cooperation with partner organizations. To request a hard copy, please contact the Urban Initiative at 508.910.6407

Presentation: Fairfax Gardens HOPE VI Evaluation - Baseline report

The UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative was selected as the evaluator for the Taunton (MA) Housing Authority's HOPE VI project, an effort that will replace

Please use the links below to read the full baseline report developed by the Urban Initiative t PowerPoint presentation provides a brief overview of the baseline report developed as part of the HOPE VI evaluation the Urban Initiative is conducting for the Taunton Housing Authority.



An Analysis of the Permitting Process in Greater New Bedford

The Urban Initiative worked with the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce to develop an overview of permitting processes across the communities of greater New Bedford and to identify opportunities for municipalities to adopt best practices advocated by the Massachusetts Association for Regional Planning Agencies (MARPA).







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Springfield (MA) Public Schools Dropout Prevention Program Assessment and Review

Prompted by concerns about a continually decreasing graduation rate, the Springfield Public Schools commissioned the Urban Initiative and our partner, the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC), to evaluate the district's existing dropout prevention programs at its four comprehensive high schools and multiple alternative school sites. District leaders articulated two overarching goals of this assessment: first, to determine whether policies and programs related to dropout prevention are being implemented with fidelity and producing intended outcomes; and second, to identify service gaps and needs at individual high schools that could be addressed by integrating best practices in dropout prevention.




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Dropout Prevention Program Assessment: Fall River Public Schools

Sponsored by the Fall River Public Schools, the Urban Initiative conducted its first independently-led Dropout Prevention Program Assessment in the summer of 2010 for the City of Fall River. The report, released in February of 2011 details the programmatic reviews conducted by the Urban Initiative of key district-level dropout prevention initiatives including: the Alternative Programs at Resiliancy Prepratory School, the English Language Learners Program, Career and Technical Education, and the High School Now Program. Modeled upon the National Dropout Prevention Center's Program Assessment and Review (PAR) process, the Fall River Dropout Prevention Program Assessment incorporates both qualitative and quantitative research gathered by the Urban Initiative as well as research conducted in schools throughout the country on dropout prevention and best practices. The goals of this evaluation were to assess current dropout prevention activities, discover areas in which a duplication of effort might be taking place, identify potential gaps in the provision of services to students and provide recommendations based on data collection, analysis, and nationally recognized best practices that stand to help the district enhance student learning and improve graduation rates.

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A Report on the New Bedford & Fall River
Dropout Prevention Planning Initiative

In November 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) issued the second round of its State Targeted Assistance grant program to urban school districts particulating in the state's Dropout Prevention & Recovery Workgroup. The program provided an opportunity for these districts to continue their planning efforts around dropout prevention and initiative to increase graduation rates among at-risk students. Given this particular grant opportunity, the school districts of Fall River and New Bedford (both located approximately 15 miles from each other in southeastern Massachusetts) decided to partner with the Urban Initiative to undertake a planning process that would provide both districts with a common platform from which to pursue the development of a data-driven strategy for reducing dropout rates based upon the establishment and implementation of a dropout early warning system.

The planning initiative brought together school and district personnel from each district who are focused on dropout prevention and culminated in the development and submission of a major grant proposal to the US Department of Education under its High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI) grant opportunity. It is anticipated that the report will serve as a basis for future efforts particularly as both districts continue to pursue collaborative efforts around droupout prevention and the implementation of a droupout early warning system that suits the needs of each district.

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Public Transit Needs & Perceptions in the City of New Bedford:
A Survey & Analysis

Commissioned by the New Bedford Transit Development Plan Task Force and sponsored by the Garfield Foundation, the Urban Initiative, in partnership with the UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis, conducted a phone and onboard bus survey in the City of New Bedford to understand riding patterns, awareness of local SRTA bus service, satisfaction with local bus service, factors that inhibit or deter city residents from utilizing local bus service, and service changes that might encourage increased ridership and use of local transit.

Given some of the tremendous development opportunities that are being planned for and undertaken by the City of New Bedford and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts relative to public transportation, infrastructure, and the future expansion of commuter rail service to the city, the survey and data analysis coordinated and conducted by the Urban Initiative sought to help the TDP Task Force with developing an understanding of how to optimize local bus service in New Bedford so as to compliment the planning already taking place relative to SouthCoast Rail and the construction of the Whale's Tooth Intermodal Terminal off of Route 18.

The two key goals initially identified for this survey project included: (1) an assessment of the potential for improvements of changes to the status quo, and (2) to determine the possibility for increased ridership.

The New Bedford Transit Development Plan Task Force is composed of representatives from the City of New Bedford, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), the Southeast Regional Transit Authority (SRTA), and transportation consulting firm VHB, Inc.

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Analysis of MCAS Performance: City of New Bedford

At the request of the New Bedford Education Roundtable at the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Urban Initiative conducted a cursory analysis of 2010 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores for the New Bedford Public Schools. The brief analysis was designed and intended to be mainly diagnostic in nature and therefore does not attempt to identify the root causes of stagnating academic performance, higher-than-average dropout rates, or any other "symptom" of poor performance. It provides a comprehensive look at longitudinal trends in MCAS performance within the district and along student subgroups and grade levels and offers broad-based recommendations for improving the district's efforts at reform.

The report has served as a springboard for the Education Roundtable's activities and its advocacy around improved educational achievment in the New Bedford Public Schools.

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Program Assessment & Review for the Chelsea Public Schools

With over 20 years of experience in the field of education and dropout prevention, the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) at Clemson University has gained national renown as a clearinghouse on issues and best strategies related to dropout prevention. In April of 2009, the Urban Initiative had the distinct honor of becoming the NDPC's first national sattelite affiliate under the NDPC's organizational endeavors to extend the scope of its national work through strategic partnerships with other research and action-based entities. Given the Urban Initiative's proximity to the City of Chelsea, and mission to focus on educational issues in urban contexts, the NDPC called upon the Urban Iniative - as a part of our affiliation agreement - to work cooperatively with the NDPC research team in order to successfully conduct the PAR for the Chelsea Public School Department. According to the NDPC, the purpose of the PAR process is to provide research-based strategies and solutions along with professional assistance to local schools, with the goal of helping them to develop the capacity for self-directed and continuous improvement. As such, the PAR process provides schools and communities with the opportunity to study itself and to make local decisions based on local goals, resources, and conditions. To learn more about the PAR process, please visit the NDPC's website at NDPC - Program Assessment and Review.

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Pathways to the Future:
Market Analysis for the South Sandwich Village Center

The South Sandwich Village Center (SSVC) serves as the Town of Sandwich's central marketplace. In fact, a majortity of the town's residents live within about one mile of the SSVC and it contains a wide variety of small-scale retail, dining, entertainment, financial, healthcare, and service sector venues. At the direction of the Town and working together with its partners at the UMD Center for Policy Analysis, the Urban Initiative undertook a market analysis of the SSVC to assess the level of interest different business and industry types might have in locating, re-locating, or expanding their business in the SSVC. Through on-line surveys and interviews with a variety of business and industry leaders, econocmic development experts, and location specialists, the Urban Initiative and Center for Policy Analysis provided the Town with a report that sought to answer the question: "What is the highest and best use of the SSVC?" The research team attempted to answer this quesion in light of the Town's ownership of 54 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the site, the transportation and infrastructure challenges that need to be mitigated, and the Town's general vision for the SSVC in its most recent comprehensive plan.

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Downtown Taunton: Challenges and Opportunities

Like many of the Commonwealth's urban centers outside of Boston, Taunton’s downtown area finds itself at a crossroad of significant challenges and opportunities as its civic organizations, business leaders, and elected and appointed officials work together toward plans for its revitalization. As such, the City of Taunton's Office of Economic and Community Development recently engaged the services of the Urban Initiative to work on an analysis of these challenges and opportunities that can help the city to attract new commercial, cultural, and residential activity in the Downtown. The analysis will also include an assessment of parking and its availability as well as the potential for creating additional parking. In addition, the study will also take a look at the role to be played by various partners and organizations in the downtown and explore the potential for new and/or expanded partnerships.

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Springfield Economic Growth Initiative

Like many of its Gateway sister-cities, Springfield has been struggling with the transition from an economy largely based upon manufacturing to today's knowledge-based industries. Together with our partners at MassINC, the Urban Initiative recently completed a contract with the City of Springfield’s Office of Planning & Economic Development to conduct a comprehensive examination of Springfield's current economic challenges, assess the potential of the City's assets, and propose concrete measures for implementation that will assist the city in its future economic develop efforts. The project will consist of a major public input and awareness campaign that will seek to draw from the talents and experience of Springfield's business community, elected and appointed officials, and residents as a way to guide and inform the research, data collection, and recommendations for future action.


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Dropout Prevention in the SouthCoast:
Choosing a New Path to Economic Prosperity

The SouthCoast region is made up of a diversity of communities from urban cities like Fall River and New Bedford to towns like Fairhaven and Acushnet. Across each community, challenges are similar but also different in many ways. With an interest in efforts to enhance educational attainment for the region’s residents, the SouthCoast Development Partnership engaged the services of the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative to perform an analysis of school dropout in the SouthCoast’s fifteen communities and to conduct a concurrent study of national best practices for dropout prevention that, if implemented or expanded upon in the region, would have a significant effect in reducing the incidence of dropout behavior among students across the SouthCoast.

A project commissioned by the SouthCoast Development Partnership, this report examines educational attainment in the SouthCoast’s 15 communities as well as dropout and graduation rates among each SouthCoast school district in order to provide the Partnership and the region with an analysis of the economic and social implications of low educational attainment and high dropout rates in the SouthCoast. In addition, the report recommends that the region, its stakeholders, and its schools focus on implementing or expanding initiatives along 5 strategies from the National Dropout Prevention Center’s list of 15 best strategies for dropout prevention. These 15 strategies were measured by the research team across several internal and external scales to determine which 5 strategies the region should focus its dropout prevention efforts on in the near future as a way to have a considerable impact on high school dropout rates.

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