The National Guard has a program called Youth Challenge, which enrolls high school drop outs of both sexes into a residential, military-like, “bootcamp-lite” setting, where discipline, self-esteem, and physical fitness are emphasized. The aim is to prepare youth to take and pass the GED exam in a setting removed from the tumult of their home and community environments. You may have heard of the program here in Oklahoma, Thunderbird Youth Academy in Pryor.
To be honest, I’ve been pretty skeptical of the program. I can see how such a program would benefit certain youth, but I’ve wondered how scalable it is (would all types of youth benefit from this structure or only certain kinds), whether the program is sufficiently focused on academics, and whether this is really just a military recruiting tool.
Well, turns out Youth Challenge is impressing the right people (says the New York Times):
The early results of a national study [conducted by MDRC] comparing youths who qualified for the program and were then admitted or denied on a random basis suggest that Youth Challenge may be the most successful large-scale program yet evaluated to help dropouts.
Nine months after participants left the program, they were 36 percent more likely than those in the control group to have obtained a G.E.D. or a high school degree. They were more than three times as likely to be attending college and 9 percent more likely to be working full time.
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So our research team met this morning to discuss some data that Cindy, our program evaluator, has been analyzing. One critical question is “how do we measure our children’s likelihood of growing up to achieve economic self-sufficiency?” We know there are lots of imperfect predictors for graduating from high school (or dropping out) as well as lots of intermediate predictors that take the form of: success in X in 3rd grade leads to success in Y in 6th grade. Well I run across these occasionally so I thought this would be as good a place as any to store them.
Early Ed Watch has a post up discussing a Brookings report on the use of 8th grade algebra in high-poverty schools. Apparently, some schools are placing more (or even all) of their kids in 8th grade algebra classes, even if they have only a second grade math level. That can bring down the performance of all the kids in those classes. So how do you really prepare kids for 8th grade algebra? You make them proficient in “whole number operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) by 4th grade.”
By aligning pre-K programs with elementary curricula, we can help get more of those kids up to speed and more of them graduating high school. Slide 47 on this power point shows that the difference in 7th Grade math grades is the 7th largest gap between high school graduates and drop outs. The previous slide finds that differences in math between graduates and dropouts are statistically significant even in kindergarten. (Wish the slides were better sourced, but they are not.)
So how can we measure “whole number operations” in 4th grade? Is that what the state standardized tests are looking for?
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