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

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.

Philip J. Cook, Kenneth Dodge, George Farkas, Roland G. Fryer, Jr, Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig, Susan Mayer, Harold Pollack, and Laurence Steinberg
NBER Working Paper No. 19862, January 2014
http://www.nber.org/papers/w19862

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