Program

Jun 04, 2014

OVERVIEW

Higher Achievement is a community-based program that aims to improve students’ reading and math skills and chances for placement in a high-quality high school, by offering year-round out-of-school-time programming. A random-assignment study found that students in the treatment group had  statistically significantly higher math scores than their peers in the control group did at two- and four-year, but not one-year follow-up; there was no statistically significant program impact on reading scores at any follow-up point.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Higher Achievement is a community-based program that aims to improve students’ reading and math skills and chances for placement in a high-quality high school, by offering year-round out-of-school-time programming. One component, Summer Academy, consists of small classes (13 students, on average) taught by paid teachers during the summer before 5th and 6th grades, from 8am-4pm, five days a week.  Students take classes in four core areas–math, science, social studies, and literature–which focus on concepts they will learn in the coming academic year; and two elective classes (e.g., sculpture, chess, or martial arts).  Curricula are aligned with District of Columbia and Virginia public school standards and assessments.  The program also offers weekly field trips, academic competitions, and a three-day out-of-town trip to a university, to allow students to experience what college will be like.  Students also have the opportunity to participate in monthly field trips, career shadowing days, and community service projects.

Another component, Afterschool Academy, consists of after-school programming three days a week, from 3:30 pm to 8 pm, for 25 weeks.  Each session includes homework help, dinner, an arts or recreation elective, a “community gathering” of staff, volunteers, and youth, and 75 minutes of small-group academic instruction, taught by volunteer mentors. One session of instruction each week is devoted to math, literature, and a seminar (which includes topics like creative writing, conflict resolution, and technology).  The curriculum for these classes is built around four social-justice themes (freedom, justice, solidarity, and voice), designed for students’ grade levels, and sensitive to the public school systems’ skills standards and to the Common Core state standards.

Higher Achievement also offers additional services to help with the transition to high school, including a family night at the end of 7th grade, with a group discussion for parents about high school applications, and two-day visits to high-quality high schools with guided discussions about the schools during the summer before 8th grade.  During 8th grade, program staff also meet with parents to discuss students’ grades, field questions, make recommendations for high school, and hold weekly mentoring sessions with each student to help with high school applications.

Target population: Low-income, urban 5th and 6th grade students

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., & Linden, L. L. (2013). Staying on track: Testing Higher Achievement’s long-term impact on academic outcomes and high school choice. New York, NY: A Public/Private Ventures project distributed by MDRC.

Evaluated population: A total of 952 students entering 5th or 6th grade were recruited for participation in the study in three waves, in 2006, 2007, and 2008.   To be eligible for the study, students and their parents had to submit an application, participate in an in-person interview, and “commit to active participation” in the study for 3-4 years.  At the beginning of the study, slightly more than half of student were starting 5th grade.  Fifty-nine percent were female; 75 percent were African American and 13 percent were Latino.  Sixty percent were eligible for free or reduced price lunch, 28 percent lived with both parents, and 12 percent spoke a language other than English at home.  Sixty-five percent of students had self-reported grades of mostly As and Bs, and six percent had grades of mostly Cs; students’ scores on standardized tests were slightly higher than the national average.

Approach:  After completing a baseline assessment, students were randomly assigned to a treatment group (receiving year-round out-of-school-time programming) or to a control group, which received no programming.  At baseline and in the spring one, two, and four years after baseline, students completed standardized tests for math and reading skills.  In addition, at the four-year follow-up, parents completed survey questions about what type of high school their child had applied to, been accepted to, and enrolled in (i.e., a private school, a competitive public charter or magnet school, a noncompetitive public charter or magnet school, or a neighborhood public school) in order to assess the quality of  high school placement.  Attrition was 25 percent at the one-year follow-up, 30 percent at the two-year follow-up, and, among those eligible to participate for four years (i.e., those in 5th grade at the start of the study), 53 percent at the four-year follow-up.

Results:  Although there was no statistically significant program impact on students’ math scores at the one-year follow-up, students in the treatment group had statistically significantly higher math scores than their peers in the treatment group did at both the two- and four-year follow-ups.  There was no statistically significant program impact on students’ reading comprehension scores at any follow-up.

For high-quality high school placement, there were positive but not uniform program impacts at year four.  Statistically significantly fewer treatment group students applied to a noncompetitive public charter or magnet high school, compared with their peers in the control group, but there were no statistically significant group differences for the number of students who applied to private schools or competitive public charter or magnet schools. For school admissions, statistically significantly more treatment group students were admitted to private schools, and significantly more were admitted to noncompetitive public charter or magnet schools, compared with their peers in the control group.  However, there were no statistically significant group differences for admission to competitive public charter or magnet schools. Similarly, statistically significantly more treatment group students enrolled in private schools, and significantly fewer enrolled in noncompetitive public charter and magnet schools, compared with their peers in the control group, but there was no significant program impact on the number of students who enrolled in competitive public chart or magnet schools.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., & Linden, L. L. (2013). Staying on track: Testing Higher Achievement’s long-term impact on academic outcomes and high school choice. New York, NY: A Public/Private Ventures project distributed by MDRC.

Website:http://www.higherachievement.org/index.php

KEYWORDS: Children, Adolescents, Elementary, Middle School, Males and Females (Co-ed), High-risk, Urban, Community-based, After-school Program, Mentoring, Tutoring, Mathematics, Reading/Literacy, Other Education

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