The study took place in 10 sites in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Between 2005 and 2007, a total of 3,074 high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 18 were randomly assigned to the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program in 10 states; 2,320 to the intervention group and 754 to the control group. There was a single site in each state. A random subsample of 1,508 participants (916 in the intervention group and 592 in the control group) was selected to be given the 21-month follow-up survey. The analysis sample included 1,196 youths (736 in the intervention group and 460 in the control group) who responded to the follow-up survey; 80% of the intervention group and 78% of the control group responded to the survey.Most sample members (84%) were male. They ranged in age from 16 to 18 years old at program entry. The sample was racially and ethnically diverse: 41% were Caucasian; 40% were African-American; 14% were Hispanic; and 5% were from other racial and ethnic groups. Sample members had performed poorly in school before entering the program. About half reported receiving mostly Ds and Fs before dropping out.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program attempts to promote positive youth development for high school dropouts through a residential education and training program followed by a structured mentoring program. The intervention consisted of three phases.Phase 1: Two weeks of program orientation and physical and psychological assessment in a residential, quasi-military setting. Phase 2: Twenty weeks of education and training in a residential, quasi-military setting. During this phase, the majority of participants’ time was spent on educational activi-ties, including work toward a GED or high school diploma. Education and training covered the following eight areas: leadership, responsible citizenship, service to community, life-coping skills, physical fitness, health and hygiene, job skills, and academic excellence. Phase 3: One year postresidential phase. Participants worked with program staff to arrange a postresidential placement in employment, continued education, or military service. In addition to participating in the placement activity, each participant was supposed to maintain monthly contact with a mentor, who was chosen by the participant and trained by ChalleNGe program staff.
Control group members were not eligible to receive National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program services but could receive other services available in the community. Contrary to the study design, eight control group members enrolled in the program (1% of the full control group). These enrollees were still assigned to the control group in all analyses.
The relevant study outcome included in this review is whether students earned a high school diploma or GED, based on student follow-up interviews. For a more detailed description of this outcome measure, see Appendix A2. The study also examined a number of other outcomes that are not within the scope of the Dropout Prevention protocol.
Support for implementation
Program staff included team leaders who directly supervised the students, teachers who provided classroom instruction, and counselors who provided individual, group, and career counseling. It was common for staff members, particularly team leaders, to be National Guard members or to have military experience. Teachers often came to the program from the local school district or from community colleges. Counselors typically had bachelor’s or advanced degrees in psychology, social work, or other relevant fields.