WWC review of this study

Helping high-risk youth: Results from the alternative schools demonstration program [Wichita study].

Dynarski, M., & Wood, R. (1997). Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    358
     Students
    , grades
    9-12
No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations

Reviewed: December 2016

Progressing in school outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Total credits earned at end of year 4

Alternative Schools Demonstration Program (ASDP) vs. Business as usual

4 Years

Full sample;
358 students

7.6

8.2

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Percentage earning any credits

Alternative Schools Demonstration Program (ASDP) vs. Business as usual

3 Years

Full sample;
358 students

10

10

No

--

Number of days enrolled

Alternative Schools Demonstration Program (ASDP) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
358 students

59

60

No

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 49%
    Male: 51%
  • Race
    Black
    39%
    White
    45%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    10%
    Not Hispanic
    90%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
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    • D
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    • F
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    Kansas

Setting

This study took place in Wichita, Kansas. One school implemented the intervention. Students in the comparison group had the option to attend one of multiple schools.

Study sample

In the intervention group, 52% of students identified as male, 45% identified as White, non-Hispanic, 39% identified as Black, non-Hispanic, and 9% identified as Hispanic. A majority of students said that their mother had a high school education or more (65%). Only 3% of students said that the primary language spoken at was not English. In the comparison group, 48% of students identified as male, 44% identified as White, non-Hispanic, 38% identified as Black, non-Hispanic, and 11% identified as Hispanic. A majority of students said that their mother had a high school education or more (66%). Only 3% of students said that the primary language spoken at was not English.

Intervention Group

The Alternative Schools Demonstration Program (ASDP) was created to address dropout rates among certain segments of the youth population. ASDP funded establishment and evaluation of alternative schools in seven economically disadvantaged areas around the country. The schools were designed to improve the basic skills and employability of highly at-risk youth. The program was modeled after High School Redirection, an alternative high school in Brooklyn. The schools served youth who had persistent problems in the regular public school system, such as repeated incidents of academic failure or frequent truancy. The schools in the program emphasize basic skill development while promoting other aspects of personal development. ASDP schools were to have seven key features: 1) issuance of standard high school diplomas, 2) operate in low-income locations separate from other high schools, 3) maintain a degree of autonomy from the district's central office in their daily operations, policy-making, and hiring decisions, 4) on site childcare, 5) intensive remedial reading programs for students with serious literacy problems, 6) serve about 500 students, with admission based on referral rather than accessibility or proximity to students (students could not be denied based on past issues), and 7) operated by local boards of education, and staffed by supervisors and teachers who meet the normal district standards. Extracurricular activities were limited. The evaluation focused on academic, economic, and social impacts of the program. This study review in particular examines findings from an evaluation of Metro-Midtown Alternative High School in Wichita, Kansas. The study examines the effectiveness of the program on various factors, including: student attendance/enrollment, credits earned, graduation rates, diploma/GED receipt, basic skill levels/grades, employment rates, welfare receipt, wages, and several variables measuring delinquency.

Comparison Group

Comparison group students received business-as-usual because they attended a non-program school.

Support for implementation

The authors did not discuss or provide support for intervention implementation.

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations

Reviewed: April 2007

Completing school outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Earned a high school diploma or GED at end of year 2 (%)

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

By End of 2nd Follow-up Year

Cohorts 1 and 2;
310 students

29

30

No

--
Progressing in school outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Total credits earned at end of year 4

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

By End of 4th Follow-up Year

Cohorts 1 and 2;
358 students

7.6

8.2

No

--
Staying in school outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Number of days enrolled in year 1

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

During Follow-up Year 1

Cohorts 1 and 2;
358 students

108

94

No

--
More Outcomes

Number of days enrolled in year 2

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

By End of 2nd Follow-up Year

Cohorts 1 and 2;
358 students

59

60

No

--

Dropped out at end of year 2 (%)

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

By End of 2nd Follow-up Year

Cohorts 1 and 2;
310 students

51

46

No

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 50%
    Male: 50%
  • Race
    Black
    40%
    White
    45%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    10%
    Not Hispanic
    90%
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
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    Kansas

Setting

The study was conducted at the Metro-Midtown Alternative High School, an alternative high school in Wichita, Kansas.

Study sample

The Wichita High School Redirection study used a randomized controlled trial research design. Students were assigned to the two research groups using a 2:1 random assignment ratio under which two students were assigned to the intervention group for every one student assigned to the control group. The study sample of 358 students included two cohorts. Cohort 1 consisted of students who applied to Metro-Midtown Alternative High School (the replication of High School Redirection in Wichita) prior to or during the 1991–92 school year and included 162 students in the intervention group and 78 students in the control group. Cohort 2 consisted of students who applied prior to or during the 1992–93 school year and included 79 students in the intervention group and 39 students in the control group. Results summarized here are based on school records, which are available for all 241 intervention students and all 117 control group students in the two cohorts, as well as a follow-up survey administered two years after random assignment. Two hundred and two intervention-group students and 108 control-group students responded to the survey, for response rates of 84% and 88%, respectively. Researchers compared the baseline characteristics of the two research groups on 12 demographic, socio-economic, and school-related measures. A statistical test of the overall difference between the research groups on the full set of 12 baseline characteristics found that the groups were not significantly different. Wichita participants were, on average, 17 years old at the time they applied to the High School Redirection program. Almost half (45%) were white. About 4 in 10 were African-American and about 1 in 10 was Hispanic. Participants were evenly split between males and females. About half (53%) had dropped out of school before applying to the alternative high school.

Intervention Group

The Metro-Midtown Alternative High School was a replication of High School Redirection and was part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Alternative Schools Demonstration Program (ASDP) evaluation. The Wichita school included most of the key features of the High School Redirection model specified by the ASDP evaluation: granting regular high school diplomas, taking students from throughout the district, offering the STAR remedial reading program to those with serious literacy problems, providing on-site child care, offering no extra-curricular activities, and operating with considerable autonomy from the local district. During the evaluation period, the program enrolled approximately 300 students and held both daytime and evening sessions. The school offered the standard district curriculum. Teachers set up individual programs of instruction for each student, and students were able to progress at their own pace (Rubenstein, 1995).

Comparison Group

Control group students could attend other district high schools that did not implement the High School Redirection model. In some cases, these students may have attended one of the two other alternative high schools operated by the district. Later in the evaluation, the district began admitting some control group students to Metro-Midtown Alternative High School if they applied again after having been originally turned away. During the first two years after random assignment, 13% of control group students spent some time enrolled in Metro-Midtown.

Outcome descriptions

Five relevant outcomes from the Wichita High School Redirection study were used for rating purposes: number of days enrolled in a district high school during the first followup year, number of days enrolled in a district high school during the second follow-up year, dropped out by the end of the second follow-up year, cumulative credits earned by the end of the fourth follow-up year, and graduated or earned a GED certificate by the end of the second follow-up year. (See Appendices A2.1, A2.2, and A2.3 for a more detailed description of outcome measures.)

Support for implementation

Metro-Midtown Alternative High School teachers were regular high school teachers employed by the Wichita Public Schools. No additional information about specific training they received was available.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Rubenstein, M. (1995). Giving students a second chance: The evolution of the Alternative Schools Demonstration Program. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates.

  • Weinbaum, A. T., & Baker, A. M. (1991). Final implementation report: High School Redirection replication project. New York: Academy for Educational Development.

 

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