Capstone Courses and Projects

Environmental Advocates of New York

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Environmental Protection Fund
The mission of the Environmental Advocates of New York is to protect the air, land, water and wildlife, and the health of all New Yorkers. Their work includes monitoring the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), New York State’s primary source of funding for environmental programs. The Capstone team utilized a cost-benefit analysis to determine the true economic impact of two EPF-funded projects across New York State: the Greenwich Village segment of the Hudson River Park and Municipal Recycling in Suffolk County. For Hudson River Park, quantified benefits included increased property values, commercial benefits, pollution control, and health benefits for New Yorkers resulting in lower healthcare spending. The recycling portion examined savings from reduced pollution, transportation costs, and cost of recycled materials as compared to landfill. The analysis was used to help legislative decision-makers and the public understand the positive impacts of the EPF.

National Home Performance Council

The Impact of Public Marketing on Residential Retrofitting
The National Home Performance Council (NHPC) works with federal and state government agencies, utility companies, contractors, and energy efficiency advocates on projects that support Home Performance with Energy Star™ initiatives. Home performance programs often spend significant amounts of money on a variety of advertising channels with the goal of developing demand for whole house energy upgrades. However, they lack tools to assess the impact of marketing dollars on a contractor’s bottom line. The Capstone team worked with NHPC to create models that allow public programs to analyze the cost-effectiveness of marketing strategies. The public marketing and contractor models provide a foundation for assessing other public investments, which will allow NHPC to continue to support home performance programs and contractors in the development of more efficient and effective strategies to promote energy efficiency.

New York City Campaign Finance Board

Voter Turnout in NYC: Results from the 2008/2009 Elections and Strategies for 2012/2013
New York City’s most recent mayoral election yielded the lowest voter turnout since 1969 with only 26 percent of the 4.1 million registered voters casting a ballot. The Voter Assistance Commission is responsible for identifying under-registered segments of the city's population and enabling eligible residents to register and vote. In November 2010, the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) expanded its mission when voters approved a City Charter amendment that moved the Voter Assistance Commission to CFB. The Capstone team assisted the CFB with this new role by preparing a statistical analysis to identify New Yorker’s voting patterns and the factors that impact the voter turnout rate. While research has been performed at the local level, it is outdated and excludes the emergence of the Internet. The analysis informed the team's recommendations for potential programs and activities to increase turnout in the 2012 and 2013 elections.

New York City Department of Education, Division of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners

Evaluating the Budgetary Impact of Special Education Reform on New York City Schools
The NYC Department of Education is implementing a special education reform focusing on how schools serve students with disabilities. This reform changes how special education programs are funded and the ways schools are required to design their special education programs. Currently, the reform is underway in 260 schools. In September 2012, the reform will be scaled up to all NYC public schools. This Capstone project’s goal was to work with schools and central management to develop, implement, and evaluate metrics to quantify schools’ operational capacity to implement their special education programs effectively under the reform. The team gathered budgetary and operational data, which was analyzed to provide a picture of schools’ special education resources. Quantitative analysis was supplemented by school visits in which team members interviewed administrators about their special education program designs, their strategies for implementing the reform, and the outcomes they had experienced or anticipated. Synthesis of this data informed a series of metrics measuring schools’ readiness to undertake the reform for the 2012-2013 school year.

New York City Fire Department

Impact Review of the Homeland Security Grant-Funded Projects at FDNY
The Capstone team worked with the NYC Fire Department to develop an impact review model to better measure the effects of high-value homeland security grant-funded projects. The Capstone team conducted extensive research on previous studies of impact measurement and “scorecards” that have been developed by fire departments in comparable cities. The team and the client chose to use FDNY hazardous materials projects as a test case. The team met with department staff and acquired detailed project descriptions and spending history from 2005 to 2010 to analyze the spending trends and outcomes. Analysis of this data identified some limitations in metrics currently collected by the department. The Capstone team presented recommendations to FDNY to improve measurement of the degree to which homeland security funds have enhanced the department’s preparedness since September 11, 2001.

New York University Center on Violence and Recovery

A Cost-Benefit Study, Logic Model and Assessment Tools for a Restorative Justice Domestic Violence Treatment Program
Traditional court-mandated Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs) bring groups of batterers together to hold them accountable for their actions. However, new research raises questions about the effectiveness of BIPs in addressing domestic violence. The Center on Violence and Recovery (CVR) at New York University developed a restorative justice-based treatment and healing modality called Circles of Peace. In 2005, The Center was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the Circles of Peace program in Arizona and a typical BIP. The Capstone team conducted a comparative cost-benefit analysis of the two programs based on the randomized controlled trial and analyzed the viability of the Circles of Peace approach (there are currently no comparable published cost-benefit studies of domestic violence intervention programs). Additionally, the team developed a logic model and assessment tools for Circles of Peace to allow for ongoing evaluation as it experiments with program delivery.