Winning Ideas

Listed in Alphabetical Order by Title

Enhancing the Individual Education Program System:

Research shows that addressing students’ learning differences while keeping them integrated in inclusive classroom environments is important. In Massachusetts, students with learning differences who were primarily integrated into mainstream classroom settings had an 83% four-year graduation rate, compared with a 43% graduation rate for those who were in separate learning environments. Furthermore, eighth graders who were integrated had considerably higher state test scores than similar students who were not integrated. This effect was experienced by students across socioeconomic statuses. Similar findings are emerging from an analysis of student-level data from three other states.

While nearly half of the 6.7 million K-12 public school students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) are of average or above average intelligence, with disabilities surrounding something other than cognitive function, Individualized Education Program (IEP) classification in resource-strapped schools is often insufficient in addressing students’ learning differences. IEP documents tend to be dense, but also vague. Teachers who are already overburdened with large class sizes, limited resources, and limited planning time can have difficulties interpreting and complying with the IEP requirements.

Our solution is a teacher, and teacher aid-facing, interface that utilizes analytics to focus on coordinating efforts to serve students, digitizes the IEP, and uses a much more individualized approach to keep students with IEPs integrated in ‘mainstream’ classrooms. This will allow those with learning differences to receive the specific assistance they can benefit from while allowing them to remain with their peers.

The interface would focus on monitoring growth in math and literacy. This will reduce the hassle factors of dealing with IEP paperwork by automating certain components of the forms and redirecting the instructors’ attention to qualitative input; provide a clearer understanding of what is contained in a student’s IEP document, reduce the noise of the many pages of paperwork for time-constrained teachers, and provide a snapshot of the student’s learning difference in context.

All students should have individualized attention when obtaining an education, but in reality it’s difficult for educators to keep track of a student’s challenges, particularly on a letter grade pass/fail system that could mask challenges in core subject areas until high school, when multiple basic skills must be used in combination. If scaled to focus on keeping all students with IEPs included in mainstream classes, this solution could eventually support positive development for more than three million students each year.

Financial Planning and Guidance for College:

Of the nearly 50% of college students who drop out, 70% report doing so for financial reasons, making it a major driver of dropout. According to the U.S. Department of Education, less than half of high school seniors living with low incomes who intend to go to college end up enrolling, and just one in 12 graduate with a degree by age 24. Less than 60% of full-time students graduate from four-year colleges within six years, and less than 30% graduate from community colleges within three years.

Our solution is the first of its kind. It combines college financial matching, a personalized financial planning tool, and FAFSA completion assistance into a holistic success platform for high school and college students, supporting students through their financial decisions on the road to college graduation. It bridges the gap between intention and action by integrating students' bank and credit accounts to offer real-time cash-flow management support.

On the back end, we help colleges understand students' financial risk to prevent dropout or streamline the release of emergency aid through existing grant programs if needed. At scale, we will ourselves act as an emergency liquidity provider for students to smooth income volatility, using machine learning to understand student financial patterns that indicate student financial risk, and build an underlying risk model that allows us to take on this function effectively.

By helping more students, particularly students living with low incomes, obtain the financial support they need to graduate, we can mitigate the risk of default, increase their lifetime earning potential, and improve levels of social mobility for more people.

Helping More People Access Social Benefit Programs:

In the United States, more than 45 million people live below the poverty line, including one in five children. While public benefits programs meaningfully impact countless lives by providing essentials like food and health care, many people who are struggling do not receive these benefits, for a variety of reasons. Often people who are eligible and really need these services lose out, and not necessarily because of a deliberate decision to forego them—hidden behavioral barriers can be at play, preventing individuals and families from getting what they need.

Our solution is a free mobile app that aims to eliminate the barriers of finding, applying for, and maintaining services and programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and more. This solution strives to help people make the most of the social benefits programs that are available to them.

The mobile app will guide users through an easy-to-use eligibility assessment to quickly discover what services they may qualify for. We will begin with federal programs and add local and state programs as we expand our offering. Our solution will also address the friction of applying for programs by not only highlighting which programs to apply for, but also by pulling these applications into one place, for a more streamlined application process. Finally, the platform will provide in-app digital assistance through an artificial intelligence powered chatbot. The chatbot will assist users in real-time, at the touch of a button, if they get stuck at any point along the way.

Increasing participation rates by 5% for SNAP alone could provide 2 million more Americans with access to much-needed resources to help feed themselves and their families. This is an important first step in establishing support and stability that will serve as a foundation for achieving upward mobility.

Improving Medication Adherence:

Approximately half of adults in the United States suffer from at least one chronic health condition. These chronic illnesses account for almost three quarters of deaths in the country. While most cases are commonly treated by long-term medication regimens, one in five new prescriptions are never filled, and half of those that are filled are taken incorrectly. The costs of such medication non-adherence are enormous. Failing to take medication properly can lead to increased medical spending, as well as higher rates of hospitalization, disability, and death. The consequences of medical bills, an unplanned hospital stay, or inability to work can disproportionately impact those with fewer financial resources and less of a support system, suppressing upward mobility.

This solution aims to address these issues and increase upward mobility by increasing medication adherence. We will implement a large-scale, digital behavior change program leveraging text, email, and other digital outreach channels with personalized messaging to increase adherence. We will design and simultaneously test multiple strategies for improving medication adherence. We will test these strategies in partnership with a medication provider which will offer this program to its customers.

By applying the scientific method, delivering our program digitally, and using machine learning to optimally tailor interventions to different targets, we can identify the most effective strategies to increase medication adherence at scale (both overall and for specific subpopulations), which can be built into future programs.

Tenant Aid During the Eviction Process:

Repeated evictions from rental housing have a devastating impact on household wealth and access to stable, high-quality education. Post-eviction judgments, most of which are far more than the actual cost of back rent due to the addition of the landlord’s attorneys' fees and court costs, are also levied on families. These judgments destroy a tenant’s credit, so instead of paying for safe, stable housing, tenants must pay a premium for substandard housing, all the while servicing interest-bearing debt for prior evictions. Children caught up in evictions may have to change schools repeatedly, which negatively impacts their educational outcomes. In addition, schools in areas with high eviction rates struggle to adequately serve a student population that may be turning over by as much as 40% every year.

Our solution will use an interactive app and mobile-optimized website to break down the components of the eviction notice in Fulton County, Georgia, by helping tenants understand what the landlord’s claims are, the date by which they need to respond, and how they can file their response (online for a fee or at the courthouse for no cost). The app, with links to a more robust website, would be accessible through a QR code on the eviction notice.

The current dispossessory notice a tenant receives when his or her landlord has filed for eviction is often unclear; the form uses legal terms instead of common language and the print is small. The tenant must file an answer within seven days of the date of service, but may not understand the deadline, or how or where to file an answer.

There are roughly 40,000 evictions filed in Fulton County every year. This solution would help more tenants understand the eviction process and how to assert their rights, file timely answers, and avail themselves of legal assistance, all of which could reduce the overall number of evictions and decrease judgments (and other longer-term consequences) for back rent issued against tenants.