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IES Grant

Title: Pathways to Success in the Transition to High School: Testing Efficacy for Improving 8th and 9th Grade Academic Outcomes
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Oyserman, Daphna Awardee: University of Southern California
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (09/01/2018 - 08/31/2022) Award Amount: $3,299,766
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A180308

Co-Principal Investigator: Sorensen, Nicholas

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to testthe efficacy of a teacher-training and implementation model for the Pathways to Success program that was developed through a previous IES grant. Pathways is a 12-session social psychological intervention administered at the start of eighth grade to help students change key elements of their identity based motivation — their possible selves (who students expect to become in the near and distant future), their strategies to work on these possible selves, and how they interpret difficulties along the way.

Project Activities: The research team will randomly assign K to 8 schools within matched pairs to implement the Pathways program at the beginning of the 8th grade year or to a control group (delayed implementation of the Pathways program).

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of the efficacy of the Pathways to Success program for 8th grade students and their teachers. They will also disseminate findings through peer-reviewed publications and other reports shared via project websites, e-newsletters, and social media.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in Chicago Public Schools, an ethnically diverse (38 percent African American, 47 percent Hispanic, and 10 percent White) school district that serves primarily low-income families (80 percent).

Sample: The sample for this study includes approximately 168 8th grade teachers, 70 guidance counselors, and 5,040 8th grade students from 70 K to 8th grade schools.

Intervention: Pathways is a teacher-led, teacher-trained intervention designed to help students connect their current effort in school to their future aspirations, and in doing so develop self-regulatory strategies that promote success in school and beyond. The intervention consists of small-group activities designed to help students see school as a path to a possible future self. Teachers (or guidance counselors) present these activities in class twice a week for 30-45 minutes over the first 6 weeks of the school year. The activities are intended to change the way students interpret experienced difficulty in school by helping them see these experiences as normative and as signaling task importance rather than task impossibility. Pathways materials, including video resources and implementation manuals, are publically available through an intervention website

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will randomly assign schools within matched pairs to treatment (Pathways) or control (delayed treatment) at the end of Year 1. Over the summer, 8th grade teachers and guidance counselors in treatment schools will participate in about 20 hours of training over 3 days. During the six-week implementation period at the start of Year 2, teacher trainers will check in with the teacher implementers to debrief and resolve any challenges. The researchers will assess student outcomes immediately post intervention (end of 8th grade) and longer term (end of 9th grade and beginning of 10th grade).

Control Condition: Schools in the delayed-treatment condition will continue business-as-usual practices in Years 1 and 2, and receive the same training and support for implementation of Pathways in Year 3.

Key Measures: Students will respond through web-based surveys and open-ended questions about identity-based motivation (possible selves, strategies, interpretations of difficulty). Teachers will report on students' self-regulatory behavior (in-class initiative and behavior). The researchers will use school administrative data to track unexcused absences and grade 8 and 9 academic outcomes (grade point average, test scores, grade 9 on-track graduation status, and grade 10 persistence). The team will determine implementation fidelity via video recordings and student self-report.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use an intent-to-treat approach to estimate the impact of Pathways on students' academic outcomes. The analysis strategy accounts for the nested data structure by using multilevel modeling for the primary analysis of students' outcomes and multilevel structural equation modeling for an exploratory test of the theoretical framework of the study. The researchers will estimate the per-pupil cost of Pathways implementation using the Resource Cost Model that accounts for all ingredients necessary to implement an intervention in a new context.

Related IES Projects: Pathways to Success: Developing a Teacher-Led, Teacher-Trained School-to-Jobs Intervention to Improve School Attendance and Academic Achievement (R305A140281)