Improving schooling and life outcomes of disadvantaged youth is a top priority in the US, but to date not many interventions have been shown to improve the outcomes of these youth, especially males. This has led some to question the value of investing in academic skill development, but this may be premature given that few interventions address one of the central challenges in disadvantaged schools, namely, variation in students' academic levels within a classroom, which may lead to a """"""""mismatch"""""""" between what youth need and what is delivered. The core theme of our overall program project is to assess the most effective (and cost-effective) ways to improve long-term life outcomes for disadvantaged youth. In the summer of 2013 we identified a study sample of 2,134 males entering 9th and 10th grade in 12 public high schools on Chicago's south and west sides, working in close collaboration with Chicago Public Schools (CPS). These youth were randomized to receive a very promising academic intervention (high-dosage math tutoring), or a very promising non-academic intervention (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy called """"""""Becoming a Man,"""""""" or BAM, developed and implemented by a non-profit in Chicago, Youth Guidance), or to receive both, or neither. The interventions were launched in August 2013 with outside (non-NICHD) support. Project 1 focuses on the academic intervention, delivered by tutors with strong math and interpersonal skills who are hired, trained and supervised by Match Education. One way in which this intervention is novel is in its intensity. For example, CPS students right now are eligible for tutoring help that averages 1/2 of math tutoring per week. The Match intervention provides one hour per day of two-on-one intensive, individualized instruction, with a curriculum that develops remedial skills and is also tied to classroom goals and state standards. Previous non-experimental research by our collaborator Roland Fryer suggests this intervention may increase math scores by 6th and 9th graders by 0.5 to 0.7 standard deviations;we know of no other similarly-large effects reported in a credible study. This project will be among the first RCTs of this intensive tutoring model and will use administrative data to measure impacts on both academic outcomes and on non-academic outcomes like involvement in risky, delinquent or violent behavior, and labor market participation and earnings. Project 1 seeks support from NICHD to partially support a second year of the academic intervention, which would greatly strengthen statistical power and is key to our theory of change that youth behavior will change disproportionately once they are caught up enough academically to have hope for a diploma. The project also requests support to assist with implementation monitoring, development of surveys to measure Match impacts and mechanisms, and assistance with analysis. Combined with project 2 we would be able to examine the relative benefit-cost ratios of Match compared to best-practice non-academic supports, and whether delivering both together have synergistic effects, and combined with project 3 we could examine a broader set of outcomes and understand mediating mechanisms.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1)
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University of Chicago
United States
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Heller, Sara B; Shah, Anuj K; Guryan, Jonathan et al. (2017) Thinking, Fast and Slow? Some Field Experiments to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago. Q J Econ 132:1-54