The (Surprising) Efficacy of Academic and Behavioral Intervention with Disadvantaged Youth: Results from a Randomized Experiment in Chicago

Abstract: There is growing concern that improving the academic skills of disadvantaged youth is too difficult and costly, so policymakers should instead focus either on vocationally oriented instruction for teens or else on early childhood education. Yet this conclusion may be premature given that so few previous interventions have targeted a potential fundamental barrier to school success: "mismatch" between what schools deliver and the needs of disadvantaged youth who have fallen behind in their academic or non-academic development. This paper reports on a randomized controlled trial of a two-pronged intervention that provides disadvantaged youth with non-academic supports that try to teach youth social-cognitive skills based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and intensive individualized academic remediation. The study sample consists of 106 male 9th and 10th graders in a public high school on the south side of Chicago, of whom 95% are black and 99% are free or reduced price lunch eligible. Participation increased math test scores by 0.65 of a control group standard deviation (SD) and 0.48 SD in the national distribution, increased math grades by 0.67 SD, and seems to have increased expected graduation rates by 14 percentage points (46%). While some questions remain about the intervention, given these effects and a cost per participant of around $4,400 (with a range of $3,000 to $6,000), this intervention seems to yield larger gains in adolescent outcomes per dollar spent than many other intervention strategies.
Authors citation
Cook, P. J., Dodge, K., Farkas, G., Fryer, R., Guryan, J., Ludwig, J., Mayer, S., Pollack, H., & Steinberg, L.
Publication
National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
Year of Study
2014
Subject
Math
Program Evaluated
Intensive individualized academic remediation
Tutor Type
Paraprofessional
Duration
34 weeks
Sample size
1646
Grade Level(s)
9th Grade,
10th Grade
Student-Tutor Ratio
2
Effect Size
0.18
Study Design
Randomized Controlled Trial
Full citation
Cook, P. J., Dodge, K., Farkas, G., Fryer, R., Guryan, J., Ludwig, J., Mayer, S., Pollack, H., & Steinberg, L. (2014). The (Surprising) Efficacy of Academic and Behavioral Intervention with Disadvantaged Youth: Results from a Randomized Experiment in Chicago (NBER Working Paper No. 19862). National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc. https://econpapers.repec.org/paper/nbrnberwo/19862.htm