The Eisenhower Foundation Quantum Opportunities Program was adapted from an earlier Quantum Opportunities Program, and is a youth investment and youth development program model designed to provide multiple solutions to multiple problems among at-risk high school students. Quantum provides comprehensive, wrap around multiple solutions –intense one-on-one and group mentoring, tutoring, life skills training, college preparation, youth leadership training and modest financial stipends over all 4 years of high school. The primary goals of the program focus on educational outcomes including academic achievement, high school completion, acceptance into college, enrollment in college and persistence in college. The secondary goals of the program focus on behavioral outcomes including decreasing delinquent behaviors, substance use, gang activity, and teen pregnancy. The study, conducted in five cities across the nation, yielded significant impacts on academic achievement, high school completion, acceptance into college enrollment in college and persistence in college. Due to low response rate among control group participants on self-report questionnaires, impacts on delinquency, substance use, sexual activity, gang activity, and teen pregnancy were inconclusive.
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM
Target population: At-risk students entering 9th grade.
Quantum is as a high-intensity youth investment program targeting high school students at risk for academic failure. The program primarily targets educational outcomes including, academic achievement, high school graduation, and college acceptance. Enrollment in college and persistence in college are other outcomes on which the program can have an impact. Behavioral goals include decreasing occurrences of delinquent behavior, substance use, gang activity, and teen pregnancy.
The program was replicated in 5 cities: Albuquerque, NW; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Milwaukee, WI; and New Bedford, MA. Students were eligible for participation if they were first-time freshman in high school and at risk for academic failure. The program served students from the second semester of 9th grade and followed them through their senior year of high school.
The Eisenhower Foundation formulation of the Quantum model is comprised of 6 components: “deep mentoring,” tutoring, life skills training, college preparation, youth leadership training and modest financial stipends. Tutoring includes one-on-one on sessions with paid and volunteer staff in reading and mathematics, as well as some computer-assisted instruction. “Deep mentoring” consists of one-on-one and group experiences that are designed to build strong, lasting bonds between adults and youth. Mentors are expected to get to know participants’ peers and family, visit their homes to discuss problems and find solutions, and meet with teachers and school counselors. Life skills training facilitates personal and social asset building and youth development with positive identity formation through group discussion, structured activities, role-playing scenarios, and team-building exercises. Quantum staff also provides college counseling, guides SAT/ACT preparation, assists with applications for admission and financial aid, leads field trips to local colleges and helps Associates identify internships. Youth leadership training empowers participants to engage in a peer-generated enterprise that improves the status quo in their community or their local school in a measurable way. This component includes but proceeds well beyond traditional “community service.” Modest stipends are provided to help students cover personal and family expenses. As part of life skills training, above, the use of stipends also is integrated with training in personal financial management.
Program participants are encouraged to participate up to 180 hours of mentoring, 180 hours of tutoring, and 50 hours of leadership training/community service hours, totaling 410 hours of services per year. An operating principle of the program is, “Once in Quantum, Always in Quantum.” Therefore, as a rule, participants remain in the program even if they transfer to another school, move out of state, drop out of school, are incarcerated/imprisoned, or are inactive in program activities. All program interventions continue throughout the school year, as well as the summer months, when program staff seek employment for program participants.
The average cost per youth over 4 years for all 5 sites combined in 2014 dollars is $13,150. This figure does not include technical assistance, evaluation or indirect costs.
EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM
Curtis, A, and Bandy, T. (In press). The Quantum Opportunities Program: A Randomized Control Evaluation. Washington, DC: Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation.
Evaluated population: 300 low income students from 5 sites: Albuquerque, NW; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Milwaukee, WI; and New Bedford, MA. Students were eligible if they were first time high school freshman and at-risk for academic failure.
Approach: Recruitment occurred from 2009 through 2010 in public high schools in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Boston, Milwaukee, and New Bedford. Recruitment procedures were standard across all replication sites. Eighty students from each high school received an application form and consent packets to share with their parents. After a potentially eligible participant completed the application packet, program site staff notified an evaluation staff member. All parents provided written informed consent prior to participation. A total of 300 youth (60 per site) were selected for the study. Eligible participants were randomized with a computer-generated algorithm. One hundred and fifty-one students were randomly assigned to the program as Quantum-enrolled participants (called “Quantum Associates”), and the remaining 149 students were randomly assigned to the control group. Institutional review board approval, written parental permission, and youth assent were completed prior to the study evaluation.
Throughout the study, high school academic records (report cards/transcripts) were collected for both Associates and control group participants each semester. At the end of the study, commencement books and college acceptance letters were collected to verify high school completion and acceptance into college. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse database were collected to verify college enrollment and persistence in college. In addition, both groups completed self-report questionnaires each year covering demographic characteristics, health knowledge, substance use, gang activity, delinquency, sexual activity, and criminal activity. However, lack of funding yielded low response rates among control group participants, which prevented study evaluators from drawing conclusive results on these outcomes.
Results: Associates spent on average, 291 hours in Quantum-related activities. Significant differences were found between Quantum Associates and control group participants on the primary outcomes, academic achievement, high school completion, college acceptance, college enrollment and persistence in college. Quantum Associates had significantly higher grade point averages, and were significantly more likely to graduate from high school, achieve college acceptance and college enrollment than the control group participants for all 5 sites, aggregated. At 4 of the 5 sites (Albuquerque, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and New Bedford), Quantum Associates were significantly more likely to persist in college than control youth. These findings held when disaggregated by gender and race/ethnicity.
In assessing differences by site, Quantum Associates were significantly more likely to graduate from high school, get accepted into college, enroll in college and persist in college when compared to control group participants. Additionally, in all but one site (Albuquerque), Quantum Associates had significantly higher grade point averages than control group participants.
SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
Curtis, L.A, and Bandy, T.. The Quantum Opportunities Program: A Randomized Control Evaluation, 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation.