Improving Lives Through Evidence-Based Approaches

Addressing persistent challenges in education, health care, and workforce requires evidence-backed approaches. For nearly 75 years, AIR has researched key issues and offered insight into the effectiveness of many strategies. Read our policy primer to explore our body of evidence covering issues such as COVID-19, early childhood, school climate, the opioid crisis, occupational licensing, and more.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

In the wake of COVID-19, AIR has been engaged with leaders across the country on how to successfully deliver educational, health, and workforce development services in new and improved ways.

Illustration of woman with cell phoneAIR’s COVID-19 Response and Resources

The pandemic has dramatically changed the lives of people around the globe, touching all aspects of life, from health care to education to the economy. In this new world of rapidly changing information about the virus, AIR seeks to be a source of evidence-based information that examines and begins to understand the various complexities of this crisis.

Image of young boy and girl looking at a tablet togetherNational Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19

AIR conducted a nationally representative survey of more than 2,500 school districts and charter management organizations to learn about the actions they have taken and the challenges they have encountered during the COVID-19-related school closures. This knowledge will inform the best approach to serving students as the landscape evolves.

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions, In Plain Language

AIR has created a plain-language FAQ that addresses a variety of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is designed to make information accessible and comprehensible to everyone, regardless of education level or background, and is available in English, Spanish, and simplified Chinese.

Image of mother with young girl reading on bed togetherBuilding Positive Conditions for Learning at Home: Strategies and Resources for Families and Caregivers

As we all adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we create a safe, supportive, and engaging spaces for learning at home. The positive conditions that you create will give your child what he or she needs to succeed. In fact, positive conditions for learning will not only help your child with learning at home right now, it will also help everyone in your home no matter what is going on in the world around us.

Telehealth and COVID-19

The word "telehealth" is sometimes used interchangeably with "telemedicine," but these terms mean different things. The Promise of Telehealth for Addressing COVID-19 explores those differences, how remote health care services work and for what conditions, and what policy changes have occurred to expand access to remote health care. The Expansion of Telehealth explores how policymakers, providers, and payers can increase access to telehealth for diverse patient populations; navigate issues of digital literacy; expand broadband access; and shift toward a health care system that incentivizes both value and equity.

Image of boy distance learning on his laptopTeacher Appreciation in the Time of Coronavirus

Right now, teachers must navigate additional challenges to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic and school shutdowns. Several AIR experts showcase the ingenuity, creativity, and care that teachers are bringing to their virtual classrooms, and to families and communities.


Improving Outcomes in Education

Early Childhood and Child Development

Image of young girl kneeling and playing in BangladeshResearch shows that children are more successful in school and beyond if they are given a strong foundation in the earliest years of their lives. AIR works with early childhood service providers and policymakers to find solutions to practical challenges. For instance, our experts have evaluated pre-primary education programs overseas, including those in Mozambique and Bangladesh, generating critical information on the qualities of successful programs, as well as cost-effectiveness.

Improving Outcomes in Education

Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) and Comprehensive Centers led by AIR work with state and local educational agencies and  schools to conduct applied research and provide capacity building services to support a more evidenced-based education system. Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, REL Midwest is examining postsecondary education and employment pathways in Minnesota and postsecondary education expectations and attainment of rural and nonrural students across the Midwest.

School Climate and Safety

When students feel safe and secure at school, they are more likely to attend regularly, achieve academically, and graduate. Research shows that a positive, safe, and supportive school climate is also an important factor in preventing youth violence.

Image of Cleveland district CEO Eric Gordon with studentsFollowing a school shooting in 2007, education leaders at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District realized that preventing further violence required a comprehensive approach. In support, AIR school safety and climate experts conducted interviews, surveys, focus groups, and site visits to provide a thorough view of the school system’s strengths, assets, and areas for improvement. The resulting social and emotional learning approach is embedded into district policies and structures, serving as a national model for fostering a positive, safe, and equitable school climate.

Dual Enrollment

Dual-enrollment programs, like Early College High Schools, are a promising and cost-effective approach to giving high school students the experience of participating in college-level classes while also earning college credits. AIR’s research has found that being offered admission to an Early College had positive impacts for students on both college enrollment and degree attainment two to four years after expected high school graduation. Further, there are significant impacts on students’ college enrollment and degree attainment outcomes through six years after expected high school graduation.

Postsecondary Education

While postsecondary education is key to obtaining stable employment, rising costs have made it more difficult for families and students—particularly those from  underrepresented groups—to afford. AIR’s Center for Applied Research in Postsecondary Education works directly with postsecondary institutions and other organizations to tackle some of postsecondary education’s most pressing challenges.


Improving Health Care Outcomes and Access

Our research and evaluation experts study the implementation and effectiveness of health and well-being initiatives and programs to provide much-needed evidence to inform the field.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

Image of woman raising her hand in a classroomThe misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a national crisis. Promising approaches include addressing the problem of substance use disorders holistically, focusing on broader factors such as housing, living wage jobs, educational opportunities, and social connection. AIR's Center for Addiction Research and Effective Solutions (AIR CARES) brings together practitioners and researchers across the fields of medicine, public health, health services, education, criminal justice, workforce, and behavioral health to prevent and reduce the negative consequences of substance misuse.

Plain Language Health Information

Accurate, accessible, and easy to understand health information is important all of the time, but has been particularly essential to help people stay safe and healthy, understand federal safety guidelines, and prevent unnecessary fear during the pandemic. AIR developed a plain-language FAQ to addresses a variety of topics related to COVID-19 in three languages (English, Spanish, and simplified Chinese).

Telehealth’s Role in Expanding Access to Care

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the use of telehealth helped to expand access to care for people in areas with few health care providers. Now, with social distancing guidelines related to the coronavirus pandemic, telehealth services can be a safer alternative to in-person visits. AIR developed briefs that explain telehealth and examine its promise as a health services solution during the pandemic, and explore the expansion of telehealth, considerations for specific patient populations, digital literacy, and more.


Developing a Workforce for the Future

AIR studies human performance and workforce development programs and works with government agencies, professional associations, and the private sector to help develop a workforce that is ready for the jobs of the 21st century.

Occupational Licensing

Image of Christina CurnowOccupational licensing aims to protect public safety but also can become a barrier to employment, particularly for economically disadvantaged or justice-involved individuals, or those moving to a different state. AIR worked with the National Conference of State Legislatures and its partner organizations to conduct case studies of 11 different states that had reviewed their licensing practices, which provided important background and lessons learned that could be applied to future efforts to address licensing. Watch Christina Curnow discuss what AIR has learned about occupational licensing through research and a data-driven approach.

Disability and Rehabilitation

People with disabilities can have greater challenges than those who do not have disabilities in finding jobs and careers and remaining employed. AIR research has found that across major metropolitan areas, people with disabilities earn 63 cents to the dollar compared with people who do not have disabilities. AIR’s work in this area focuses in creating career pathways, pursuing employment opportunities, and gaining economic security for people with disabilities.