Intensive tutoring and counselling for struggling teenagers

This working paper, published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, presents findings from a randomised controlled trial of an intervention that aims to provide both academic and non-academic remediation for disadvantaged teenagers who are falling behind and at risk of dropping out of school. The academic portion of the intervention includes intensive, individualised one-to-two maths tutoring provided for an hour every day. The non-academic portion includes social-cognitive skills training such as learning how to evaluate consequences ahead of time.

The study took place in a high school in a deprived area of Chicago with high levels of ethnic minority pupils and where nearly all the pupils are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The sample was 106 males aged 14–16 who were identified using an “academic risk index”.

Findings showed that participation in the intervention reduced course failures by about 66% in both maths and non-maths classes, increased rates of being “on track” for graduating high school by 46%, and showed large gains in a broad measure of maths test scores.

These are promising findings for a small-scale pilot, but testing the intervention at scale will be an important next step. Also, the current study measured outcomes only during the programme year, so no conclusions can be drawn yet regarding lasting impacts. Cost is another factor, and the authors do note that intensive small-group tutoring can be expensive. However, they say that the tested intervention (costing roughly $4,400 per pupil) seems to yield larger gains in adolescent outcomes per dollar spent than many other intervention strategies.

Source:The (Surprising) Efficacy of Academic and Behavioral Intervention with Disadvantaged Youth: Results from a Randomized Experiment in Chicago (2014),NBER.

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