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Capstone Projects

During their second year, MPSA students participate in two semesters of capstone research courses. These courses allow students to tackle a problem or project in the real world, often working in conjunction with a government agency or nonprofit organization. Designed to test the knowledge and abilities students have developed through their previous classes and experiences, capstones necessitate strong teamwork, careful research, writing ability, and often a large amount of ingenuity in identifying ways to approach an issue or find a solution.

Past and current capstones include the following:


Texas vs. the Federal Government: An Examination of the Influence of Political Ideologies on State-­‐Filed Lawsuits

Supervising instructor: Ann O’M. Bowman

The Project
This study explores the role of ideology in the filing of lawsuits by the state of Texas against the federal government. Four important policy areas are examined: criminal justice, environmental protection, immigration, and social issues. The time period of the study encompasses an ideological spectrum in Texas government and among the American presidents holding office at the same time as the governors. To gain a comparative focus, the Texas lawsuit data is contrasted with federal lawsuits filed by Florida and California. The analysis shows no clear connection between ideology and the number of lawsuits filed by the three states.

The Search for Smart Schools: Identifying Texas School Districts’ Best Practices

Supervising instructor: Dr. Catherine Cole

The Project
This report outlines findings from the TXSmartSchools.org (TSS) Capstone Team’s mixed methodology study identifying best practices in high performing and cost-efficient school districts. TSS was particularly interested in finding best practices transferable from high performing school districts to low performing districts. The Capstone Team accomplished this using the TSS concept of “fiscal peers.” After completing a narrative literature review on the best practices in public education, the Capstone Team examined the effect of various school district expenditures on academic performance and cost efficiency through quantitative methods. The Capstone Team’s findings suggest the amount of money invested in practices are not indicative of the quality of the programs. Additional findings demonstrate the administrative cost ratio caps do not improve cost efficiency, and investments in bilingual education are associated with improved academic performance. To better describe the practices employed in school districts, semistructured interviews were conducted with school district officials. The findings from interviews with chief business officers and superintendents capture the importance of culture in district practices and operations. Based on the quantitative and qualitative findings, the Capstone Team makes recommendations that can be implemented at the district and state level. Further research is needed that will allow educators and researchers to better identify the best practices that will improve Texas schools’ and districts’ student academic achievement and fiscal efficiency.

Examining the Prevalence of Financial Exploitation of Individuals Suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia Related Diseases in Texas

Supervising instructor: Dr. Deborah L. Kerr

The Project
The Alzheimer’s Association of Houston and Southeast Texas (Association) is committed to expanding care and services for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease through awareness, research, and legislation. The Association has asked the Bush School capstone team to examine the prevalence of elder financial exploitation in Texas, specifically among individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases. The result of this examination will assist the Association’s policy and recommendation agenda during the 2019 Texas Legislative Session.

College Station 2030: Issues Affecting a Growing Community

Supervising instructor: Dr. Jeryl Mumpower


Municipality Index Capstone: US Edition

Supervising instructor: Dr. Domonic Bearfield

Since 2013, the Bush Transparency Project has provided the public with information about government transparency in four key management areas: money, people, infrastructure, and information. The goal of the project is to create an invaluable resource for public managers, citizens, and other parties interested in e-government and transparency.

The Project
The study will expand the scope of the Bush Transparency Project to include local governments across the United States. Specifically, we will focus on cities with populations of at least 100,000 people.

Cities will be evaluated in the four areas of money, people, infrastructure, and information. Within each area, sub-indicators will target specific topics that will provide uniformity during evaluation of the cities. In the money realm, cities will be evaluated on the basis of their long-term outlook, budget process, structural balance, contracting/purchasing, and financial controls reporting. City efforts related to people will follow the sub-indicators of strategic workforce planning, hiring, retaining employees, training development, and managing employee performance. For infrastructure, the sub-indicators are capital planning, project monitoring, maintenance, internal coordination, and intergovernmental coordination. Finally, information will be evaluated on the sub-indicators of strategic direction, budgeting for performance, managing for performance, program evaluation, and electronic government.

Reorganizing Groundwater Regulation in Texas

Client: Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller
Supervising instructor: Dr. Jim Griffin

Groundwater usage in Texas appears severely dysfunctional. Neither the market for water or regulation is working properly. Currently, 80+ Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) “regulate” groundwater production in their areas, with locally elected boards that act as independent Balkanized states. Selling water across district lines is very difficult, making cities like San Antonio unable to access abundant groundwater in nearby GCDs. At the same time, landowners own the rights to groundwater based on the Rule of Capture, which creates a perverse incentive to extract all you can before your neighbor does.

This capstone will address the following alternatives.

  • The existing GCD structure could be maintained, but its most dysfunctional aspects could be fixed.
  • Since groundwater entails issues similar to oil and natural gas, why not create a statewide water regulatory agency along the lines of the Texas Railroad Commission’s regulation of oil and gas production?
  • Following Coase’s teachings on property rights, is it realistic to create “groundwater bank accounts,” whereby each landowner is assigned property rights to groundwater under his land? For example, landowners would then be free to sell their water to, say, San Antonio rather than using it for irrigation. Alternatively, they could leave it in the ground for their grandchildren.

Assessing Policies for IT Governance and Transatlantic IT Cooperation

Client: Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Dr. Philipp Mueller, Director, Public Sector-Europe
Supervising instructor: Dr. Mary Hilderbrand

Following Edward Snowden’s revelations of extensive NSA surveillance, including data gathering from German citizens and political leaders, there have been tensions in the US-German relationship (as well as in the larger US-European relationship) over the interrelated areas of surveillance/intelligence and data protection/privacy. The conflict hinders transatlantic business operations, including those of the IT sector; and it also has broader public policy implications, as it has created obstacles to progress on issues of common interest, including trade agreements. The two countries approach questions of data protection and privacy as well as those surrounding electronic intelligence gathering from quite different perspectives, and there is a lack of understanding on each side of the other’s perspectives.

The client has identified this as a key question needing research and analysis. What is behind the different US-German approaches and, therefore, behind the tensions over these issues in the US-German relationship? What steps can be taken to begin to build bridges between the two countries? The purpose of the research is to improve the quality of the transatlantic dialogue about data protection/privacy and surveillance and intelligence. The client has asked for 1) research on and analysis of the different perspectives and 2) suggestions for steps that can be taken toward building bridges between the two countries on these issues.

Whereas the client organization is a private company, the work requested is from a broader perspective and on behalf of a larger group of IT companies and think tanks concerned about the current situation. The primary contact, Dr. Philipp Mueller, is requesting the research in his role as an active representative of that larger group. The team, therefore, is asked to work on a broad policy question that has relevance for the IT sector, government, and citizens—not on a specific organizational problem of the private company.

Congressional Research Service: Dear Colleague Letters

Client: Congressional Research Service, Dr. Jacob Straus, CRS Analyst on the Congress
Supervising instructor: Dr. Deborah Kerr

For this capstone project, the Congressional Research Service and Dr. Jacob Straus plan to continue their research on "Dear colleague" letters, using data from the just completed 113th Congress. This project will be data analysis-heavy; so if you like that sort of thing, you may want to join this capstone team.

"Dear colleague" letters—formal, written, member-to-member correspondence—provide a unique window into internal communications in the US House of Representatives. In general, studies of congressional political communications tend to focus on external messaging by members (candidates), but these studies may or may not tell us why members choose to engage in internal communication.

To address this gap, Dr. Straus (CRS analyst on the Congress) has begun research that draws on the literature and presents new hypotheses about factors that increase a member’s likelihood of using dear colleague letters. Using House dear colleague letter data from the first session of the 111th Congress (2009), he used a negative binomial regression to test the importance of seniority, electoral vulnerability, leadership status, and majority party status for dear colleague letter senders. The analysis found that rank-and-file majority party members who are electorally ‘safe’ are more likely to use the dear colleague system.

Homeland Security, Emergency Management, and Business Continuity: Building a Framework to Secure the Future

Client: Rentsys Recovery Systems
Supervising instructor: Dr. David H. McIntyre

In the last three years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have made tremendous strides in the intellectual, policy, and operational frameworks that guide national preparedness. The concepts of integrated risk management (IRM) and resilience have developed into policy drivers for the mission areas of mitigation, prevention, protection, response, and recovery that now define the way federal, state, and local organizations identify and prepare for disasters and restore communities after such an event. Understanding these seven intellectual constructs and the national disaster policy frameworks published to support them is critical for anyone seeking employment or advancement in the fields of Homeland Security (HLS) or EM.

Field research leading to important findings, conclusions, and policy recommendations in these areas has been the focus of Bush School HLS capstone projects over the last two years.

One area not yet adequately addressed in this DHS effort is preparedness for the business community. This field is known as Business Continuity Preparedness (previously Business Continuity Planning—BCP). DHS and FEMA have developed more than twenty information sources related to BCP for businesses large and small, and several commercial vendors have proprietary BCP programs available for a price. National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) 1600 is the best known and most popular of these private products. But nothing like the DHS sponsored public National Disaster Frameworks is available for the business community. Based on guided research, interaction with the national leader in the field, and field research, the Bush School HLS capstone program for AY 2015-2016 will develop such a framework.

The Client
Rentsys Recovery Systems is the leading provider of post-disaster mobile business recovery in the United States. The company assists customers with pre-disaster planning and solution testing. In an emergency, it can replace essential business communications resources on short notice with assets ranging from a tailored IT package to a fully equipped multi-van replacement for an entire corporate headquarters. It can also accept the movement of a business and its employees into pre-established fixed-site Business Recovery Centers. Rentsys facilities can accept technology brought by displaced customers or provide managed data storage and access as required. Since its establishment in 1995, Rentsys has worked with firms in hundreds of disasters. The company's broad range of experience in disaster preparedness and management along with its extensive business contacts makes it the ideal customer for a capstone project to design a national-level framework for Business Continuity Preparedness. The capstone POC at Rentsys will be Mr. Steven O’Neal, who is also the president of the Local Emergency Planning Committee in Brazos County.

The Bush School/Law School Capstone on State and Local Trade Barriers

Client: North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO)
Supervising instructor: Dr. Jeryl Mumpower

The client for this capstone is the North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO), a nonprofit voluntary coalition of North American governments, businesses, and educational institutions. One of NASCO’s core missions is improving the competitiveness of the North American supply chain. NASCO is concerned that regulatory efforts at the state and local level are creating barriers to trade along the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) corridor. This capstone will provide NASCO with a careful description of the trade frictions that occur as a product moves across national and state boundaries and a framework for dealing with regulations that impose undue burdens on the free flow of goods and services in North America.

The team for this capstone will include students from the Bush School and the Texas A&M School of Law.

Consulting Capstones

Clients: Salvation Army of Bryan-College Station, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, and State Urban Search and Rescue Alliance
Supervising instructors: Dr. Will Brown, Dr. Jenny Morrison, Dr. Wynn Rosser

The goal of the consulting capstones is to enhance students' management and policy education by developing collaborative consulting engagements with public and nonprofit organizations. Students assist client organizations in addressing existing and emerging challenges. Client hosts are solicited from a range of public and nonprofit organizations, including state and local government agencies, school districts, and intermediary entities. Prospective clients submit applications, which are reviewed by faculty supervisors. Projects are based on client needs and entail a range of topics, such as marketing, organizational assessment, policy recommendations and analysis, fund development planning, program evaluation, human resource management, and strategic planning. The consulting capstone utilizes a structured framework to approach problem definition and project oversight. Student teams meet with client hosts to develop a project scope memo, completed in the first four weeks of the semester. The student teams work with the organizations to complete the agreed-upon work plan.

Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium - Dr. Jenny Morrison
Understanding Poverty in the Brazos County - Dr. Wynn Rosser


Professionalization and Effectiveness in State Legislatures

Client: Texas Legislature
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Ann O'M. Bowman
Authors: Matthew Bangcaya, Thomas DiGiuseppe, Blake Dodd, Christopher Gruning, Rebecca Parma, and Johannah Roberson

The 84th regular session of the Texas Legislature will convene in Austin on January 13, 2015, and is scheduled to run through June 1, 2015. Students in this capstone will spend the fall semester learning about state legislatures in general and the Texas Legislature in particular. During the spring semester, students will relocate to Austin to work for state legislators, legislative committees, or legislative agencies. The specific legislators and committees have not been finalized as yet, but students can expect to have opportunities to use their analytic skills. Even though students will have different work assignments during the spring semester, we will come together as a capstone class regularly. Students will produce a capstone report that builds on their fall semester study and their spring semester work experiences. The actual substance of the report will be determined by the capstone class; but it could address session milestones (significant legislation adopted/defeated/deferred); noteworthy shifts in policy (e.g., redistricting in the 82nd session, the rainy day fund in the 83rd session); or, possibly, a comparison of Texas legislative actions to those in other states as well as the identification and discussion of issues on the horizon for the 85th session.

Final Report

Texas Transparency Project Capstone: The Texas School District Indicator Project

Supervising Instructor: Dr. Domonic Bearfield

This capstone represents the second iteration of what is now known as the Texas Transparency Project. The Texas Transparency Project joins other initiatives working to promote transparency of governance information. The first iteration, the Municipal Performance Index (MPI), adapted the Grading the States evaluation framework to a local government context, utilizing a particular focus on the online transparency of government performance information. The goal of TTP is to equip citizens and public officials with the information they need to assess how their governments operate. Without that information, citizens cannot determine whether they are being governed effectively, nor can they hold their governments accountable for reaching and exceeding that expectation.

School districts will be evaluated in the four areas of money, people, infrastructure, and information. Within each area, sub-indicators will target specific topics that will provide uniformity during evaluation of the cities. In the money realm, cities will be evaluated on the basis of their long-term outlook, budget process, structural balance, contracting/purchasing, and financial controls reporting. District efforts in terms of people will follow the sub-indicators of strategic workforce planning, hiring, retaining employees, training development, and managing employee performance. For infrastructure, the sub-indicators are capital planning, project monitoring, maintenance, internal coordination, and intergovernmental coordination. Finally, information will be evaluated on the sub-indicators of strategic direction, budgeting for performance, managing for performance, program evaluation, and electronic government.

Information and other materials from each district will provide the basis for topic and sub-indicator analysis. Upon gathering the necessary information, the districts will be evaluated. Each district will receive a grade in the four different areas that will then be combined to generate the overall district grade.

Student Recruitment: Best Practices Implementation

Client: Dr. Bill West, Dr. Matthew Upton, Ms. Kathryn Meyer
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Joanna Lahey

The continued growth of the Bush School has created a need for formalization, refinement, and expansion of its recruitment methods. What are the best practices for student recruitment? What metrics can be used to evaluate methods already in place? How do we set up data collection and analysis for future evaluation? What best practices can be implemented going forward? This capstone will integrate skills from across the MPSA curriculum to effect solutions that will raise the profile of the Bush School going forward.

FEMA Proposed Best Capstone Project

Client: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Dave McIntyre

This capstone investigates Preparedness and Response to Hurricane Ike in Galveston and understands how accomplishment of all mission areas–Mitigation, Prevention, Protection Response, Recovery–could have been improved.

Questions to consider include the following.

  • What did the responsible parties do after the disaster to address the gaps in their preparedness measures? Have there been any policy changes since the disaster occurred? How could this event have been prevented? What was the community response and how can that be used to influence policy at the federal level?
  • Did the responsible party conduct a THIRA?
  • Was the responsible party aware of the risk as it developed?
  • Did the responsible party conduct anything similar to a THIRA but just call it something different? If so, how similar was what was done to a THIRA?
  • Did the party apply for grant money?
  • Who assessed the threats, hazards, and risks?
  • How often are threats, hazards, and risks assessed?
  • How do the processes fit into the National Planning Frameworks?
  • In the selected incident, how is the National Preparedness System (NPS) ensuring the community is secure?
  • What can be done at the federal level to further implement the NPS?
Based on research, analysis, and evaluation, the capstone will provide policy recommendations that will bridge the gap between national policy and doctrine and local planning efforts. The recommendations should provide a solution to the mismatch between federal and local efforts and intent.

Note 1: Use the language of all Risk Management documents, starting with the NSRA through CPG201, as well as all current DHS policy documents, including PPD-8, National Preparedness Goals, and the National Preparedness and Response Frameworks.

Note 2: The specific language and requirements of this capstone are still in negotiation with FEMA.

ENRICH Capstone

Client: Cooperative for After-School Enrichment (CASE)
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Melissa Tackett-Gibson

The objective of this capstone is to develop and conduct a study of the impact of after-school care on children and families. The project is part of an ongoing research agenda established by ENRICH of Harris County on after-school care. It is a follow-up to a Bush School capstone return-on-investment study conducted in 2013 to 2014. The capstone fills a particular need for information related to after-school care outcomes. Past research suggests that after-school care reduces student involvement in delinquency, drug use, and truancy. Additional work indicates that it also may increase the likelihood of graduation and promote better academic outcomes.

The body of literature specific to after-school care outcomes is still growing, however. This capstone may help fill some of the gaps in that literature. More importantly, it can provide information to ENRICH about area programs that will help garner funding and local support for after-school programs in Harris County.

Students will work with ENRICH to develop an evaluation of student outcomes resulting from involvement in after-school programs. They will

  • work directly with stakeholders (ENRICH and direct service providers) to determine the scope and specific goals of the evaluation,
  • identify sources of evaluation data,
  • develop an evaluation design,
  • collect original quantitative and qualitative data as necessary,
  • develop a data analysis plan and conduct qualitative and quantitative analyses, and
  • prepare and deliver a formal report and presentation to ENRICH and its partners.

Capstone Client
Harris County Department of Education has developed several initiatives to support local efforts to provide high-quality, affordable after-school care for students. One of these initiatives is C.A.S.E., or the Cooperative for After-School Enrichment. C.A.S.E. is a consortium of local individuals and groups engaged in education, politics, and local business. The purpose of the group is to promote community support for sustainable after-school programs.

ENRICH (Evaluating the Needs, Resources and Initiatives in the Communities of Houston in support of After-School) developed out of the C.A.S.E initiative. The goal of ENRICH is to provide relevant information on area after-school programs in Harris County so that policy makers, funders, and local stakeholders can assess the value and impact of care in their communities.

To date, ENRICH has sponsored a study of the impact of after-school programs on area crime rates in Houston area neighborhoods, a study of stakeholder expectations for quality care, and a return-on-investment study. The latter was conducted by Bush School of Government and Public Service capstone students, and it examined the economic impact of after-school programs in Harris County.

Consulting Capstone

Client: Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, Texas Association of Community Colleges, McKenna Foundation, Knapp Foundation, Workforce Solutions, Cooperative for After-School Enrichment (CASE)
Supervising Instructors: Dr. Will Brown, Dr. Deborah Kerr, Dr. Jenny Morrison, Dr. Wynn Rosser

The goal of the capstone is to enhance students' management and policy education by developing collaborative consulting engagements with public and nonprofit organizations. Students assist client organizations in addressing existing and emerging challenges. Client hosts are solicited from a range of public and nonprofit organizations, including state and local government agencies, school districts, and intermediary entities. Prospective clients submit applications that are reviewed by faculty supervisors. Projects are based on client needs and entail a range of topics, such as marketing, organizational assessment, policy recommendations and analysis, fund development planning, program evaluation, human resource management, and strategic planning. The consulting capstone utilizes a structured framework to approach problem definition and project oversight. Student teams meet with client hosts to develop a project scope memo, which is completed in the first four weeks of the semester. The student team works with organizations to complete the agreed- upon work plan.

Final Report - Healthy Discussions
Final Report - Envisioning a Bright Future for New Braunfels Children


Dallas Challenge Final Report

The project is an analysis of Dallas Challenge’s current image through a stakeholder assessment. Following the assessment, we will provide strategies and tactics that Dallas Challenge can incorporate in order to successfully complete the rebranding process. This project is important to our client because they want to remain a competitive service provider in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They want their image to portray their services and mission more accurately so that they can better serve at-­‐risk youth. By providing rebranding strategies, Dallas Challenge stakeholders will have a more concrete perception of the client’s identity and the scope of their program services.

Final Report

The Brazos Valley Council of Governments Service Integration Report 2013-2014

This report examines human service integration efforts of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments and what regulations stand in the way of full integration. Along with the findings from the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, we developed a report of other states’ human service integration attempts. We found that “siloed” funding streams, restrictions on information systems, and other regulations present significant barriers to the Brazos Valley Council of Governments. We also found that human service agencies in California, Colorado, and New York provide a model for the Brazos Valley Council of Governments to achieve full human service integration; however, regulations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will prevent the full integration between all programs offered at the Brazos Valley Council of Governments.

Water Use in the Eagle Ford Shale: An Economic and Policy Analysis of Water Supply and Demand

The Eagle Ford Shale is a massive geologic formation located in South Texas spanning 30 Texas counties from Brazos County in the north east to Webb County in the southwest. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing (HF) and horizontal drilling, over 200 operators have been able to tap into previously inaccessible shale reserves to produce abundant amounts of oil and gas. The oil and gas proliferation in the Eagle Ford has seen exponential growth, and production is not anticipated to decline until 2025. In addition, a typical HF well in the Eagle Ford is estimated to consume about 13 acre-feet of water for a standard 5000 foot lateral. Approximately 90% of water for HF comes from fresh groundwater aquifers. This interaction of HF and water consumption is of primary importance from a political and economic perspective. This serves as the focal point of our report.

Using the tools of statistics, our research considered the groundwater consumption trends within the Eagle Ford counties using water consumption data of municipal, irrigation, mining (oil and gas) and other categories over a span of four years. This analysis showed that fresh groundwater is being consumed at about 2.5 times the groundwater recharge rates. Furthermore, irrigation is using more water than all other water-consuming categories combined. Thus, the water problem reaches well beyond the use of fresh groundwater for mining. With respect to likely requirements of water for HF, we posited this question: “Will technology bail us out?” Retrofitting learning curves to our data for water uses and the length of the well lateral, we find that after initial improvements in water usage, the technology appears to have stabilized. This, coupled with massive irrigation water consumption suggests that technology will not be a major source of water savings in the long run. Instead, we must look to better public policies.

From a policy perspective, the status quo for groundwater use is governed by the Rule of Capture and the oversight of groundwater conservation districts (GCDs). There exists a real conflict as large-scale water users are competing for a diminishing aquifer resource with no market signals of increasing scarcity. In addition, groundwater wells drilled in connection with oil and gas exploration are exempt from GCD permitting requirements and receive a de facto “free pass” to water for HF. Likewise, limitations imposed on irrigation users by the GCDs are rarely binding, so these users usually get a free pass as well.

Our analysis leads us to three basic policy recommendations. The first involves mandatory reporting of all groundwater uses by all classes of water users. Currently, government agencies and the public lack basic information on actual water consumption; this policy seeks to relax that knowledge gap and bring transparency. Second, we propose incentivizing oil and gas companies to substitute brackish groundwater for fresh groundwater. Our proposal calls for a severance tax reduction for those companies limiting fresh groundwater use for HF in the Eagle Ford. In addition to a temporary reduction in the severance tax, these companies could be recognized by the RRC and possibly the TCEQ for their environmental stewardship with a “Green Star” designation. Our third, most heterodox and long-term recommendation is to define groundwater property rights on a per-acre ownership basis, which would attach to the surface owner’s real property. Under this system, the owners of the water rights would be able to sell their water as they would any other resource, and the market would adjust the price of water to an economically efficient level. Most importantly, it would remove the incentive to use all you can today, leaving more water for the future at a lower future price.

Postsecondary Completion in Rural Texas: A Statewide Overview

Educate Texas, our client, is a partner and key player in postsecondary education in Texas. The nonprofit seeks to improve postsecondary completion statewide. Under their mission, our capstone was charged with assessing the state of postsecondary completion in Rural Texas. Using a mixed methods approach, the capstone studied institutional, attitudinal, and academic barriers that impede rural students from pursuing and obtaining a postsecondary credential. Why should policymakers and stakeholders focus specifically on the rural student population in Texas for postsecondary enrollment and completion?

  • Texas ranks below the national average in postsecondary educational enrollment and completion. Texas needs to “enroll immediately 200,000 more students” to reach the national average, according to Closing the Gaps, the Texas Higher Education Coordinator Board strategic plan. Within the state, the issue also applies to rural students.
  • Only 26% of the most recent Texas high school graduating class tracked as a cohort ended up earning a postsecondary credential.
  • There are 834,000 rural K-12 students in Texas, which is 18% of the total K-12 enrollment.
  • Approximately 43% of the rural K-12 student population is considered low income.
  • With the largest population of rural students in the country, Texas has a unique opportunity to capitalize on the success of these youth completing a postsecondary credential.

Teenage Pregnancy: The Case for Prevention and Increased Quality of Life in Waco, Texas

In 2011, Texas was ranked 5th in the nation for total teen births rates amongst females, ages 15-19 (Department of Health and Human Resources 2011). Compared to the national average in the United States of 31.3 per one thousand, in 2011 46.9 per one thousand of Texas teens became pregnant (Appendix A). Teen Pregnancy is a very real issue in Texas, and the Waco community has found itself in the forefront of this fight.

In 2007, the Waco Foundation, a community-based foundation that supports the Waco and McLennan County areas through grant making and philanthropy, commissioned a Quality of Life Report to be conducted within their community. Children in McLennan County were discovered to have an overall quality of life score, a measure of physical health status and disease, of 41.67%. Dispersed among the county’s zip codes, this score represented a 57% disparity in scores between the lowest and highest zip codes in the county (Smith, Romero and Alonzo 2009). In searching for causes for this disparity, the Quality of Life Report found a correlation between low early childhood quality of life and teenage parents (Smith, Romero and Alonzo 2009).

This led to the community accepting the urgency of the issue and creating the SmartBabies Early Childhood Initiative. It is SmartBabies’ mission to raise the quality of life for all children within McLennan County. Because of this, the SmartBabies Steering Committee, encompassing representatives from health care, business, and early childhood development sectors, has determined the best way to address low quality of life caused by teen pregnancy is to prevent teenage pregnancy altogether by introducing “preventative” programming (SmartBabies Community Update, 2013).

The Waco Foundation SmartBabies Early Childhood Initiative commissioned this study to provide an analysis of the relative costs of teen pregnancy prevention as opposed to reactive support in the Waco, Texas community and to support the community’s current and future projected programming activities. The analysis includes a literature review, collection of secondary data, qualitative interviews, and an inclusive presentation of findings to SmartBabies, the Waco Foundation and its stakeholders, showing the positive impacts as a result of Waco proactively reducing teen pregnancy.

Integrated Risk Management at the Local Level: The Gap between Theory and Practice

In the years following September 11, 2001, there has been significant development of Integrated Risk Management (IRM) in the field of Emergency Management. The last decade has brought substantial refinement of federal guidance, an increase in the quantity of guidance, and expansion of many local emergency management programs. While these developments indicate progress, it is not known to what extent federal guidance is reaching the intended clientele; nor what quantity of the guidance has been adopted by local emergency management organizations, jurisdictions and personnel. This study aims to identify a gap, if one exists, between Department of Homeland Security guidance on IRM (theory) and the local application of IRM (practice). Furthermore, there is a need to determine the width and breadth of the gap, if such a gap exists, and what possible improvements could potentially close the gap.


Does Developmental Education Meet Student Needs?

Many students graduating from Texas high schools, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are underprepared for the rigor of college coursework, and they need extra help. Institutions of higher learning across the state have attempted to provide that help in the form of developmental education (DE)- supplemental instruction designed to fill in crucial gaps in a student's knowledge base.

Since DE is designed to serve such a crucial function for students who have less than adequate preparation, it is particularly disconcerting news that DE programs appear, in many cases, to be failing those they are intended to serve. The students who are the least prepared and the most disadvantaged languish in college classrooms, taking courses that do not count for credit. More than 70% will never finish their degree.

A review of the existing literature revealed that few researchers had talked systematically to students in DE courses about their experiences. That seemed odd, since the students are the customers of the DE process, and the ones most affected by the success or failure of these programs. A mixed methods study of DE students could offer a new, potentially insightful, angle on the problems facing DE programs in Texas. By incorporating student voices and approaching their experience from a variety of research angles, this project seeks to add to the ongoing conversation about appropriate public policy in higher education.

A Texan's Guide to the Past, Present, and Future of the Economic Stabilization Fund Report

In November 1988, Texans approved the creation of the state's Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF). Designed to help the state weather the storms of economic strife, budget shortfalls, and unexpected catastrophes, the Fund is currently accruing billions of dollars annually thanks to booming oil and gas severance tax revenues. Despite the Fund's expanding reserves, access to its wealth is anything but a walk in the park; a fact no Texas lawmaker would dispute, having labored the summer away for a piece of the ESF pie even as robust economic figures swell the General Revenue and forecast prosperity into the near future. Many Texans are scratching their heads now, wondering whether the state's rainy-day dollars might be used for anything from water projects to transportation infrastructure, or education and tax rebates, or whether they should remain untouched, jealously guarded against future unknowns and expanding government.

On first glance there seems to be no method to the madness, no way to predict whether or on what the Fund will be utilized. This report examines key social, economic, and political variables to determine what factors significantly influence the likelihood that any bill drawing from the Fund would succeed. Future legislators wondering whether their shot at ESF dollars hinges on the amount, the issue, the bill author, or even the state's general economic outlook, should take note of the following report.

Our analyses show:

  • no lawmaker from the minority party has been able to carry an ESF bill to victory
  • the better the state is doing economically, the less likely the Fund will be tapped
  • big spending by special interests may be required to get ESF legislation through
  • beware of testimony - the more people who come to testify for your bill, the less likely it is to survive the process.

The ESF has proven its muster on a number of occasions, helping the state to overhaul its education system, expand its criminal justice capacity, enhance health for Texans and their children, and span treacherous gaps in the state's budget that would have deprived residents of valuable services and stunted growth. The large and growing numbers we are seeing accrue in the Fund today make its fate a preponderant issue for all Texans seeking economic stability, sustainability, and the most efficient and effective use of the state's wealth for its residents and issue areas. More research is needed to determine whether other, unknown factors play a significant role in the Fund's use, and to distinguish in greater detail among those revealed in our analyses.

CommunitiWorks: Baseline Assessment and Recommendations

Client: CommunitiWorks

CW requires assistance in its efforts to evaluate the impact of their microfinancing strategies on their community recipients in Cambodia. Because of its expertise, the George Bush School of Government and Public Affairs, Texas A&M University has been selected to provide the necessary assistance. Given the recent implementation of CW Cambodia program, this project must be viewed from a multi-year perspective. Assistance will be required over a number of years. The Bush School is committed to providing assistance through year-long capstones. Hence, the purpose of this project is to recommend strategies for evaluating the impact of CW's community-based financing strategies in Cambodia. This project will provide the foundation for comprehensive evaluations of CW's efforts in Cambodia in near future.


Not All Cavities Are Treated Equal

The purpose of this report is to examine oral health care for children in Texas. United Ways of Texas is concerned with the disproportionate levels of access that low-income children face. This research team was charged by United Ways to:

  • Develop appropriate measures of access to preventive dental care for children
  • Analyze the geographic and socioeconomic patterns of such access measures in Texas
  • Calculate the expected benefits and costs of expanding access

There are significant disparities in access to oral health care for children in Texas. These disparities are frequently based on income levels, ethnic status, and if a child lives in an urban or rural area. Because disparity continues to exist among Texans, this report offers the following recommendations to improve access to dental care.

To support these recommendations, this report will:

  • 1. Describe the importance of children's oral health.
  • 2. Show disparities that exist among children.
  • 3. Describe the types of preventive care that can improve children's oral health.
  • 4. Demonstrate that preventive care can be cost-effective.
  • 5. Identify barriers to access in Texas through literature and research

Development in Rural Texas: An Assessment of TEEX Economic Development Reports

Client: Knowledge Division of the Texas Engineering Extension Service

The Development in Rural Texas report provides an evaluation and assessment of economic development recommendations made by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). Due to the nature of its work, TEEX seldom has an opportunity to revisit the communities it has worked with in the past. In 2011, the Bush School of Government and Public Service was contacted with the opportunity to assist in evaluating several of the economic development recommendations and plans put in place by TEEX. The Capstone group evaluated ten TEEX reports that were written from 2006-2009. Their subjects vary between facility development plans to regional economic development strategies.

A Community-Wide Financial Needs Assessment

Client: Community Development Services, City of Bryan, Texas


Immigration Reform: Policies and Implementation

Client: Accenture

How will comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) affect federal agencies? Determining the specific implementation demands likely to result from comprehensive immigration reform legislation without knowing the specific policy elements that will be enacted is a difficult task. This Capstone class presented a broad overview of the effects of likely policy changes by conducting in-depth interviews with eleven-stakeholder groups, a comprehensive literature review, detailed investigation of relevant case studies, and analyzing public opinion polls. Probable areas of policy focus identified through stakeholder interviews were border and interior enforcement, employer regulations, guest worker/visa programs, and legalization. These policy focus areas create corresponding implementation concerns for the numerous agencies charged with immigration reform implementation, including: technology, personnel, management, and funding. Technology concerns for employer regulations would include improving the current E-Verify system to avoid errors. Personnel concerns for legalization would include capacity strain for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as it confronts the likely increase in legalization applications. Management concerns for enforcement would include improving collaboration and communication among federal agencies to improve database linkage and information sharing. Funding concerns include additional appropriations for agencies to deal with increased enforcement activities, application processing, and the like. Regardless of the legislation passed, agencies will be forced to address long-standing challenges. Many of these challenges can be addressed only through costly measures, thus, contracting options offer a viable solution. Several programs provide future growth platforms for contractors, including technology consulting and management consulting. The uncertainty surrounding the immigration reform debate prevents definitive analysis of what changes CIR will bring but, by identifying policy areas and implementation concerns, this Capstone class provides an impartial and enduring approach to the issue of immigration reform.

A Study of Dual Credit Access and Effectiveness in the State of Texas

Client: Greater Texas Foundation

In 2010, with the support of the Greater Texas Foundation (GTF), the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University initiated a study of dual credit opportunities in the state of Texas. Through a Capstone course directed by Prof. Jeryl L. Mumpower, Director of the Master of Public Service and Administration Program, this group was charged with analyzing and presenting data related to both the degree of access to dual credit resources throughout Texas, as well as the effectiveness of dual credit opportunities by type. The Greater Texas Foundation further charged the Capstone group with examining the dual credit opportunities for minority, low-income, and rural populations. Throughout a year-long course of study, the Capstone team worked to collect data regarding these issues. We hope that this study will provide a valuable resource for our client, the Greater Texas Foundation, as well as for researchers and practitioners in Texas and throughout the nation.

In examining dual credit in the state of Texas, the Capstone team identified seven research questions of particular interest to GTF, falling within two topic areas: access to dual credit and the effectiveness of current dual credit programs.

Access to Dual Credit Programs
1. Where are dual credit programs available in the state of Texas?
2. How many students participate in dual credit programs?
3. What is the level of participation for rural, economically disadvantaged, and minority students?
4. What factors affect whether students participate in dual credit courses?

Effectiveness of Dual Credit Programs
5. How does postsecondary performance of dual credit participants compare to students who didn‘t participate in dual credit programs?
6. Do certain high schools have dual credit programs with graduates who fare better than those from other programs?
7. Which dual credit models have the best rates of postsecondary enrollment and graduation among their graduates?

This study has involved two primary efforts. The first was an extensive review of relevant literature to provide a thorough backdrop for analyses of the Texas situation. The second was original analyses of data collected and compiled by members of the Bush School Capstone team.

Texas Department of Public Safety Homeland Security Threats and Operations

Client: Texas Department of Public Safety

The capstone team worked on two capstone projects for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). One was an assessment of spillover violence from Mexican cartels and transnational gangs in Texas, including topics such as the definition of spillover violence, the characteristics of violent crimes related to drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), the victims of the violence, causes of the violence, quantifying DTO violence, and whether the violence in Mexico is moving to the United States. The research also included the national and border state perspective of spillover violence, federal funding levels for border security, programs to address spillover violence and border security, and spillover violence data collection mechanisms used in Arizona, New Mexico and California compared to Texas. The second project was the impact of violent domestic gangs in Texas, including information on gang size and membership in Texas, sources and affiliations of Texas gangs, and gang recruitment and growth. The team also provided DPS with feedback and local evaluation of the statewide gang-monitoring database, allowing DPS to consider ways to improve the system and increase its use.

Mapping the Nonprofit Infrastructure: A Comparison of Capacity Building and Related Resources in Texas and Beyond

Client: OneStar Foundation

The "Mapping the Nonprofit Infrastructure: A Comparison of Capacity Building and Related Resources in Texas and Beyond" Capstone Project was conducted for OneStar Foundation: Texas Center for Social Impact in Austin, Texas, with support from the Meadows Foundation in Dallas, Texas. This capstone research is a follow-up study to a single study of Texas' nonprofit infrastructure, carried out by a Bush School Capstone Team during 2009-2010. In the present study, a national comparison of the nonprofit infrastructures of all 50 U.S. states and a detailed analysis of the nonprofit infrastructure of Texas and seven comparison states was performed, in an effort to answer the following research questions: What is the relationship between the strength of the nonprofit sector and the nonprofit infrastructure? How do the Texas nonprofit infrastructure and systems of support compare to other states, and how can the infrastructure and systems be improved?

Using a mixed-method quantitative and qualitative research design (involving economic data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics, Foundation Center, US Census and labor data, GIS analysis, and document analysis) and extant framework for nonprofit infrastructure (developed by David Renz, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Midwest Center for Nonprofits, 2008), the nonprofit infrastructures of the states were compared and contrasted to better understand the characteristics of strong and weak infrastructures. Texas was found to have a fairly weak infrastructure. Recommendations were made to strengthen the nonprofit infrastructure in Texas, with emphases on ways to strengthen charitable giving, nonprofit association, and self-regulation and to enhance collaboration and networking among foundations and nonprofit management support organizations. In tandem to this research, capstone students also carried out a literature review and analysis of statewide survey of nonprofits relating to capacity building needs, in support of the Texas legislative Task Force on Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity, a task force organized by Texas Health and Human Services Commission under House Bill (H.B.) 492 and implemented in partnership with OneStar Foundation.

Expansion Management Model

Client: Abriendo Puertas

Abriendo Puertas is a small, education non-profit using parental engagement initiatives to reduce the number of Hispanic student dropouts in Texas. To date, Abriendo Puertas has seen much success - both in recognition by external organizations and in the wide support of its parent participants and volunteers. As such, Abriendo Puertas hopes to expand its program across the state, most notably to the Fort Worth area. The nonprofit is interested in solidifying its current operations in the hope of expanding its impact.

Building upon previous research, an Expansion Management Model (EMM) was produced to guide Abriendo Puertas' efforts. Combining research-based best practices, an analysis of the nonprofit's current practices (based primarily on an internal assessment), and a survey of the parents involved with Abriendo Puertas, the EMM includes tailored recommendations to Abriendo Puertas' needs. The Capstone team made four key recommendations:

  • Solidify the organization's mission,
  • Expand and diversify the board of directors,
  • Complete a strategic marketing plan, and
  • Develop a database to track the organization's parent participants and volunteers.

The Capstone report includes the final Expansion Management Model, complete with a full set of recommendations, a description of the Assessment Tool and Survey, as well as a demographic analysis identifying possible expansion points within the state of Texas.

Introducing... Objectivity: A Texas Redistricting Report

Client: Texas Legislature

Seven Bush School MPSA students spent the spring 2011 semester working with the Texas Legislature in a policy-related capacity. Two reports and a video (the video is accessible at http://www.youtube.com/tamubushschool) were produced by the Capstone team. In the video, Capstone students explain what they did during the session and how their Bush School education enhanced their legislative work.

The report, “Inside Scoop,” tells the story of the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature from the perspective of the students who were there. It offers insights on important substantive issues; the legislative process itself; and, of course, the always-intriguing politics of a legislative session. “Introducing…Objectivity” focuses on one of the most compelling issues of the 82nd session: redistricting. The report provides a review of current redistricting practices across the states and develops four criteria that would increase the objectivity of the process. Using those criteria, the report offers three different alternatives for redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts in Texas.


An Analysis of the Civil Service System of the City of New Orleans

Client: Business Council Of New Orleans And The River Region

The capstone team conducted a comprehensive review of all New Orleans Civil Service System policies and institutional arrangements. The research activity included reviews of the literature on civil service systems; analyses of legal and constitutional requirements for New Orleans and the State of Louisiana; in-depth interviews with dozens of experts and stakeholders who have direct experience with the New Orleans Civil Service System; reviews of all reports, planning documents and evaluations of the New Orleans Civil Service System; and case study analyses of comparable cities and states. The students identified several problems in system recruiting, operations, training, and evaluation and made specific recommendations to overcome these difficulties. The New Orleans mayor has embraced these recommendations and begun implementing them in the Civil Service System. The students participated in city hall briefings and news conferences highlighting their recommendations.

Diversity of Graduates from Professional Degree Programs: The Challenge of Achieving Diverse Applicant Pools and Implementing Successful Recruiting Efforts

Client: Congressional Research Service

The capstone team (1) obtained and analyzed information about pools of job candidates from historically under-represented groups in certain disciplines and (2) reported on mechanisms that had proved effective for recruiting and retaining such candidates. The team analyzed trends and characteristics of these potential applicant pools and identified schools that have graduated the largest numbers of candidates from historically under-represented groups in specific disciplines. The report presents a literature review concerning practices of public and private entities to create and maintain workforce diversity by recruiting and retaining persons from historically under-represented groups. The report also summarizes successful recruitment and retention strategies based on theoretical and practical frameworks used by government agencies, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.

Master of Public Service and Administration Program Review and Evaluation

Client: MPSA Program Director, Bush School of Government and Public Service

Assessing the quality and effectiveness of educational programs is becoming increasingly important. Ensuring the quality of Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs, like that at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, is even more critical. This capstone designed and implemented evaluative methods to assess the MPSA program. The group designed and conducted data collection and analysis to identify the program’s strengths and limitations by collecting alumni feedback. This project helped the MPSA program meet accreditation requirements and provided input to the next self-study report to be completed by the program during the 2012-2013 academic year. The capstone created and distributed an alumni survey to MPSA graduates and conducted alumni focus groups. The capstone report consists of a literature review followed by a summary of the research methodologies applied in the project, and concludes with results and a discussion of the findings.

Organizational Resiliency after Hurricane Ike

Client: Local Municipalities in Louisiana's Cameron Parish and Texas' Bolivar Peninsula, With the Financial Support of the Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund

Hurricane Ike was the third most destructive hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. Cameron Parish in Louisiana and the Southeast Texas coast of the Bolivar Peninsula, still recovering from earlier hurricanes, sustained catastrophic damage. The capstone focused on three specific long-term resiliency planning projects for client consideration: (1) long-term recovery and resiliency economic development goals; (2) policy options to meet these goals within the context of federal, state, and county/parish policies; and (3) the strengths and weaknesses of each, including implementation challenges. The Cameron Parish work involved analysis of a housing survey of 600 Parish individuals and families, a research project on Geographic Information Systems, and research on business economic factors. The Bolivar Peninsula work involved deliverables to county officials and community members, including an initial research report on economic development opportunities and a second report providing additional details on selected economic development projects identified by Bolivar officials and community members.

Social Service Availability & Proximity And The Over-Representation Of Minority Children in Child Welfare

Client: State of Texas, Department of Family Protective Services

The capstone group assessed whether child welfare services were available and proximal in predominantly low income, black areas with high foster care rates in three southern cities. GIS mapping of services contained in a State 211 community services database revealed that there were no treatment services and/or no public transportation and/or lengthy public transportation times in nearly 25% of the identified areas in the three cities combined. The authors suggest that increasing child welfare service availability and proximity could reduce the overrepresentation of black children in foster care by making services available and proximal to black parents. The authors recommend that child welfare administrators perform annual GIS analyses of State 211 community services databases to assess child welfare service availability. The authors offer a number of recommendations for increasing child welfare service availability and proximity in high foster care areas.

  • Final Report

  • 2009

    The ABCD's of Texas Education: Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Reducing the Dropout Rate

    Client: United Ways of Texas

    This Capstone team examined the economic consequences of the high number of high school dropouts in Texas. Their report discusses alternative strategies for measuring the dropout rate, and provides estimates of the dropout rate for different geographic regions and student populations. The team also estimated of the economic benefits and costs associated with reducing the high dropout rate in Texas. Finally, the team reviewed available research regarding dropout prevention programs in order to identify best practices that could be implemented in Texas. One goal of the study was to inform and encourage a broader discussion by the Texas Legislature of the state's high school dropout rate and the societal and economic impact of failing to address the problem.

    Generation Y in the Workplace

    Client: Congressional Research Service

    The recruitment and retention of Generation Y, individuals born between 1977 and 2002, concern the federal government and the Congressional Research Service particularly, as the retirement rate among Baby Boomers increases. A clear understanding of this generation's perceptions and expectations about work and career-related issues will assist the federal government in formulating its recruitment and retention strategies. Thus, this study identified and examined career choice factors and public service perceptions among members of Generation Y.

    National Preparedness Goal, Execution, and Performance

    Client: The Homeland Security and Justice Team/Government Accountability Office (GAO)

    A presidential directive ordered the secretary of homeland security to develop a domestic all-hazards preparedness goal. In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security finalized the national goal and related preparedness tools such as national planning scenarios and identification of specific capabilities that communities, the private sector, and all levels of government should collectively possess to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from all major hazards. This capstone project reported to the GAO their observations about what national preparedness means in terms of assigning authority and responsibility for preparedness across the nation's highly decentralized system of public, not-for-profit, and private sector entities. They also reviewed factors management should consider to achieve preparedness within acceptable risk tolerances, to allocate resources for preparedness, and to assess performance in developing needed preparedness capabilities.

    The Regional Impact of Climate Change on Public Infrastructure and Decision Making

    Client: Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC)

    In the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Ike, policy and decision makers in the Houston area are concerned with the growing threat of climate change impacts and how to adapt to these changes. This capstone studied the regional impact of climate change on public infrastructure in 13 counties in the Houston-Galveston area, focusing on resiliency planning as one alternative solution to the problem. They also looked at how local governments respond to recommendations from a non-binding metropolitan planning organization (MPO). The goal was to offer conclusions that reveal the needs and solutions for local and regional governments regarding funding, capacity building, and regulatory authority necessary for adaptive responses to the hazards of global climate and environmental problems at the regional level.

    A Study of Municipal Funding of Nonprofit Agencies for the City of College Station, Texas

    Client: City of College Station

    The City of College Station funds nonprofit agencies through a program called Outside Agency Funding because the nonprofits provide services not offered by the city. In working to streamline the application, review, and monitoring of this funding, it became clear that there is no standard method outlined and packaged for municipal governments to use as a guide or best practice in funding nonprofit agencies. This capstone project developed a guide for municipal governments that fund nonprofit agencies.


    Assessment of Local Ordinances to Reduce
    Illegal Immigration

    Client: Congressional Research Service

    From 1990 to 2005, estimates of the unauthorized alien population in the United States have risen from 3.5 million to 11.5 million people, a 325 percent increase. It has been the federal government's responsibility to prevent unauthorized immigration. However, a small number of localities have taken action over the past few years to prevent unauthorized immigration within their jurisdictions by passing a series of ordinances and resolutions. Some of the localities passed ordinances and resolutions targeting the businesses and landlords who hire and rent to unauthorized aliens, while others passed legislation targeting day labor centers, loitering, and government services. Consistent with findings made in other studies, we found that only approximately 100 localities have or are considering legislation that would impact their unauthorized alien communities.

    These documents are adapted from work performed under contract for the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress.

    "Bilingual Education in Texas: Exploring Best Practices"

    Client: Florence Shapiro, Chair, Senate Committee on Education

    This capstone team conducted an analysis of bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) practices in the state of Texas. Their analysis has three distinct parts. In the first part, the team developed four indicators of school success with respect to students who have limited English proficiency (LEP). In the second part, they developed a survey of teacher, classroom and program characteristics that they distributed to all elementary and middle schools with at least 30 LEP students. The final part of their analysis examined the relationship between their four measures of school success and the survey responses regarding instructional practices and program characteristics. The team found that there were no school-level differences in performance between teachers in bilingual education programs and teachers in ESL programs. They also found that consistent instruction in one language (either English or Spanish) was more effective for content learning than a mix of instructional languages, and that instructional methods identified as particularly effective by the existing bilingual/ESL literature are widely practiced in Texas.

    Community Leadership: Best Practices for Brazos Valley

    Client: Brazos Community Foundation

    This report was prepared as part of a graduate student capstone project at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service for our client, the Brazos Community Foundation (BCF). We believe the report has implications for the BCF and the broader nonprofit community in the Brazos Valley.

    The project team identified ten potential community leadership roles based on best practices in the field and interests of the BCF. Students conducted interviews with 25 local nonprofit leaders, Texas A&M University representatives, as well as other community foundations to inform our recommendations.

    After careful evaluation of data the group identified five community leadership roles with the most potential for implementation by the Brazos Community Foundation and the Brazos Valley at large. These roles received wide support, were feasible - based on available resources, and aligned with the mission and purpose of BCF. Students developed a series of action steps to provide guidance for the implementation of these roles. Through the interviews students discovered many opportunities for partnerships in implementing roles.

    Current Trends and Future Challenges in the Freight Railroad Industry: Balancing Private Industry Interests and the Public Welfare

    Client: Citizens for Rail Safety

    Deregulation has put the freight railroad industry on a more secure financial footing. In general, the transformation of the rail industry since the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 has been viewed by stakeholders at many levels as overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps most important to note is that deregulation has allowed the rail industry to fully realize the benefits of operating as a private business — cutting costs, boosting productivity, eliminating unprofitable lines, and gaining a higher degree of business autonomy. One consequence of this reduction in physical capacity is that often only one railroad company's lines run on a particular route, resulting in monopolistic pricing practices.

    The Low-Income Housing Program in the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Opportunity Zones

    Client: Congressional Research Services

    A series of tabulations of data contained in a HUD database for Louisiana and Mississippi revealed that prior to Hurricane Katrina, 500 low income tax credit housing (LIHTC) developments (consisting of 24,107 units) were built in Louisiana and 302 LIHTC developments (consisting of 13,970 units) were built in Mississippi between the inception of the LIHTC Program in 1986 and 2004 (when hurricane Katrina hit). Additionally, GIS maps of the same data revealed that, although these developments were scattered throughout both states, they were heavily concentrated in a few major urban areas. Further, a series of regression analyses, revealed a multicollinearity of several factors including ethnicity, education and income. In other words, the regression analyses did not reveal poverty as the main determinant for the location of housing. Moreover, though the HUD data base provided researchers with some idea of the amount of low income housing built in both states since the inception of the LIHTC Program', varying estimates of the amount of housing damaged and destroyed as well as differing reports of amounts housing units "allocated" for rebuilding make it difficult for both state and federal officials to determine the amount of additional federal housing assistance that should be provided.


    "An Analysis of Nonprofit Capacity-Building 'Industry'
    in Minnesota"

    Client: The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), led by Jon Pratt*.

    *Jon Pratt is regularly listed as one of the "50 Most Influential People in the Nonprofit Sector" by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. MCN is one of the earliest statewide nonprofit associations, with a professional research staff and an international reputation, operating in a highly robust state nonprofit economy and mature nonprofit sector. A second client is the Forbes Funds located in Pittsburgh, PA, an influential foundation in the world of philanthropy and capacity building.

    This capstone group conducted an analysis of the nonprofit capacity-building "industry" in Minnesota. (The nonprofit capacity-building "industry" comprises the consultants, private and nonprofit firms, management support organizations, and academic centers that provide technical assistance and leadership training to nonprofits.) It was a replication of studies by Dr. Angela Bies in Pittsburgh during 2004-2005 and of a Central Texas capstone during 2005-2006. This capstone project contributed to a growing interest in measuring the effectiveness of nonprofit capacity-building efforts and the degree to which those efforts influence nonprofit organizational effectiveness. The general purpose of the project was to provide information about effective strategies and interventions to strengthen nonprofit management and organizational capacity, the types of challenges nonprofit organizations and providers face in building capacity, and the degree to which there were unmet needs in the region.

    A multi-method approach was utilized including a survey administered to nonprofits by both an online and paper questionnaire; interviews with a representative sample of capacity building providers, policy makers, and funders; and focus groups with nonprofit executives. Results were also compared to the results obtained in the Pittsburgh and Central Texas studies.

    This project addressed substantial gaps in both the practitioner-oriented and academic literature because it provided a comprehensive, empirically derived understanding of the link between capacity-building efforts and organizational change.

    "Identifying Effective School Principals"

    Client: The State of Texas

    Policymakers and superintendents have been holding teachers accountable for student performance in Texas public schools. As the interest in results and school accountability has grown, attention has shifted to the role administrators play in creating a successful educational environment. The task for this capstone was to create a set of indicators for what an effective principal might look like. The project focused on three areas: Student Performance, Teacher Retention, and Financial Management, with the understanding that an effective principal would have students who perform well on TAAS/TAKS exams, have acceptable levels of teacher turnover, and achieve these results in a financially efficient manner. Using data from the Texas Education Agency, the project developed indicators for each of these three categories so that it would have a concrete way to discuss a principal's success. After defining what it meant to say a principal is "effective," students also checked to see if a principal's influence was statistically significant controlling for other, non-principal factors such as location, demographics, and school size. Finally, the project looked at various groupings of principals in Texas in order to report on the current patterns of principal effectiveness in the state.

    "Voting Systems and Election Reform: What Do Election Officials Think?"

    Client: The Congressional Research Service

    After the completion of the highly successful 2004-2005 capstone project, "Voting Systems and Election Reform: What Do Election Officials Think?", the Congressional Research Service agreed with the principal investigators from the school that another study would be useful after the 2006 election. The second study focused on three topics:

    1. a follow-up survey on selected questions from the previous study to identify trends relating to issues of interest, such as attitudes toward electronic voting and demographic characteristics of election officials;
    2. an examination of selected new questions, in particular the experiences and perceptions of officials about compliance with the requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that went into effect in January 2006; and
    3. an in-depth exploration of selected topics through structured interviews with a sample of election officials. One example is the role vendors play in decisions about the purchase of voting systems — an issue about which the earlier survey provided somewhat contradictory results.

    The follow-up study was useful to the relevant congressional committees as they considered possible revisions to the Help America Vote Act in light of experiences in the 2004 and 2006 elections.

    "The Board's Role for Credit Union Mergers"

    Client: Filene Institute for Credit Union Research

    This project explored the role of the board of directors in decision-making during mergers and acquisitions. Mergers are a viable and wide-spread growth strategy for many credit unions. The study considered how the board engaged or disengaged in the process of working through issues related to mergers and acquisitions. Merger opportunities are strategic decision opportunities for organizations, and boards are critical to ensuring good decision-making.

    The first step was to identify credit unions that had debated merger proposals. It was desirable to identify both credit unions that had completed the process as well as those that had withdrawn from the proposal. Based upon a sample of respondents who met the desired criteria, students conducted interviews with the senior executive and at least one board member.

    The project interviewed 15-20 organizations (or about 30-40 executives and board members). Most of the interviews focused on decision-making processes, how opportunities and alternatives were or were not explored, and how member interests were considered. This allowed individuals to effectively describe the decision-making context and how board members were engaged. Decision quality was also considered, although it is very difficult to determine the benefits of a merger that did not take place. Consequently, we asked for perceptions of the decision quality, but quantifiable determination of benefits is probably not available in this research design. A filene research monograph was produced as a result of this project.

    "Federal Funding in Response to Hurricane Katrina: Utilization by New Orleans Residents"

    Client: Congressional Research Services

    Congressional Research Service (CRS) requested the assistance of the graduate students at Texas A&M University to evaluate the awareness and utilization of federal programs and policies passed by Congress that are aimed at facilitating the post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans. Federal programs enacted and/or expanded to benefit residents in the New Orleans area post-Katrina include, but are not limited to, tax incentives for businesses to rebuild and hire workers, such as the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program; the Stafford Act programs, including FEMA grants and assistance; the Gulf Opportunity Act of 2005 (GoZone); the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (KETRA); and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, which includes the Road Home program. The study will allow Congress to examine the effectiveness of the funds allocated. In addition, students provided Congress with recommendations based on the findings of their research.

    The research conducted for this study evaluated the extent to which New Orleans residents were aware of and participated in federal programs created by recent congressional legislation designed to benefit residents in the New Orleans area.

    Students prepared a literature review and case study analysis of events similar to Katrina over the past century. Students also conducted in-depth interviews with stakeholders and leaders in the Louisiana recovery efforts, objectively examining the benefits and hindrances of the federal programs. In addition, students surveyed homeowners and business owners about the federal programs, seeking their experiences and insight into how those programs were used and managed and whether citizens were aware of the programs and benefits. Students submitted a final report to CRS in late April 2007, which included the literature review, findings, and recommendations.


    A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Universally-Accessible Pre-Kindergarten Education in Texas

    Client: The Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition (TECEC) and the Texas Program for Society and Health at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University

    This study provided an analysis of the relative costs and benefits of a high-quality, universally-accessible pre-kindergarten program in Texas. The analysis identified the costs and benefits unique to Texas' population, workforce, economy and existing educational system. It concluded that even when making very conservative assumptions, the benefits of universally-accessible, high-quality pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds in Texas greatly outweigh the costs.


    Voting Systems and Election Reform: What Do Election Officials Think?

    Client: Congressional Research Service

    In the aftermath of voting problems in the 2000 presidential election, Congress passed legislation seeking to reform how elections were run and what voting technologies were used. Some of the new voting systems selected, particularly electronic voting systems, drew criticism for perceived security and transparency problems. Absent from this debate was any systematic representation of the views of the administrators who actually run these elections. This report presented the results of a survey of over 1400 local election officials from across the country. The survey solicited views on specific election systems and technologies; the factors local election officials consider in determining the appropriate election systems for their specific jurisdictions; the influence of vendors and federal, state, and local officials on the decision making process; the impact of federal reform on state and local jurisdictions; and other topics.

    Water for Texas: Applicant Capacity Assessment Tool for the Economically Distressed Areas Program

    Client: Texas Water Development Board

    This report contains recommendations, analysis, and an assessment tool for the Economically Distressed Areas program administered by the Texas Water Development Board. The purpose of the assessment tool, known as the Applicant Capacity Assessment Tool (ACAT), was to reduce the number of water infrastructure projects running over-budget and over-schedule.


    Rural Viability Index: A Tool for Assessing
    Rural Communities

    Client: Texas Office for Rural Community Affairs

    This report describes, analyzes, and contains a tool designed to provide local leaders and citizens with a way to assess the status of a variety of elements within their community. The tool, named the Rural Viability Index, offers communities the opportunity to identify possible options for current and future community planning.


    Big Thicket National Preserve: Trails to the Future

    Client: National Park Service

    This report traces the history of the Big Thicket region and the political process that occurred to establish the Big Thicket National Preserve, identifies the current threats facing the Big Thicket region, and describes a continuum of possible policy solutions that might be applied to the threats facing the Big Thicket.

    CAFTA: Sanitary and Phytosanitary Evaluation

    Client: United States Department of Agriculture

    This report informed the USDA about the status of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) regulatory systems in five Central American countries that are participating in negotiations for a Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States. To complete the report, the Capstone team sent surveys to the appropriate in-country experts in each of the five CAFTA countries and utilized the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation model to measure the level of compliance with international standards.


    A Snapshot of the Texas Aerospace Industry and a Comparison of Competitor States

    Client: Texas Aerospace Commission

    This report analyzed the factors that affect the ability of Texas to attract and retain aerospace-related businesses by considering the following factors: statewide economic development policy, human capital, aviation, space, and military. In addition, the report provided a comparative analysis of ten states with which Texas will be competing for future aerospace-related economic development opportunities.

    Emergency Preparedness: An Analysis of Policy Leader and Community Perspectives

    Client: Office of Congressman Bob Riley

    This report, which was produced for then-Congressman Bob Riley's office, provided findings regarding the state of emergency preparedness in Calhoun County, Alabama, related to chemical weapons (CW) storage and incineration at the Anniston Army Depot. The analysis addressed the following research question. Given that CW incineration is set to start at the Anniston Army Depot in September 2002, what information would provide the basis for practical dialogue about emergency preparedness in Calhoun County and provide a possible foundation for policy leaders to reach consensus over this critical issue in order to ensure citizen acceptance, understanding, and compliance?

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