WWC review of this study

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

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

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    374
     Students
    , grades
    9-12
Does not meet WWC standards

Reviewed: December 2016

Study sample characteristics were not reported.
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with 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 3 (%)

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

Posttest

Cohort 1;
298 students

40

32

No

--
Progressing in school outcomes—Statistically significant positive 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

Posttest

Cohort 1;
374 students

10.5

8.5

Yes

 
 
10
Staying in school outcomes—Statistically significant positive 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

Cohort 1;
374 students

110

71

Yes

 
 
20
More Outcomes

Number of days enrolled in year 2

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

By End of 2nd Follow-up Year

Cohort 1;
374 students

67

50

No

--

Dropped out at end of year 3 (%)

High School Redirection vs. business as usual

End of Follow-up Year 4

Cohort 1;
298 students

43

53

No

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 50%
    Male: 50%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    45%
    Not Hispanic
    55%
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    California

Setting

This study took place at the Model Alternative High School, an alternative high school in Stockton, California.

Study sample

The Stockton 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 original study sample of 924 students included two cohorts. Cohort 1 consisted of students who applied to the Model Alternative High School (the replication of High School Redirection in Stockton) prior to or during the 1991–92 school year and included 253 students in the intervention group and 121 students in the control group. Cohort 2 consisted of students who applied prior to or during the 1992–93 school year and included 363 students in the intervention group and 187 students in the control group. The Stockton school district launched a major restructuring effort in the fall of 1993 that merged all its alternative high schools with the Model Alternative High School. This substantially changed the program. It also placed many control group students who had been attending other alternative high schools in the district into the intervention school. Because this district reorganization had a greater effect on Cohort 2 than on Cohort 1, occurring just one year after program entry for the later cohort, the study’s authors estimated the program’s effects using data for Cohort 1 only. Because of this disruption to the study, the WWC rated this study as meeting evidence standards with reservations. Results summarized here are based on school records, which are available for all 253 intervention students and all 121 control group students in Cohort 1, as well as a followup survey administered three years after random assignment. Two hundred and two intervention-group students and 96 control-group students responded to the survey, for response rates of 80% and 79%, respectively. For the students in Cohort 1, 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. Stockton participants were, on average, just under 17 years old at the time they applied to the High School Redirection program. Almost half (45%) were Hispanic; the rest were divided between whites, African-Americans, and other racial and ethnic groups. Participants were evenly split between males and females. Over half (55%) had dropped out of school before applying to the alternative high school.

Intervention Group

The Model 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 Stockton 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 600 students and held both morning and afternoon sessions in order to accommodate more students. Accumulating credits toward graduation was the primary goal of many of the Model Alternative students. Therefore, the school’s independent study option—under which students could complete assigned work on their own time and away from school—was quite popular (Rubenstein, 1995). Besides this independent study option, the school followed the district’s core curriculum without modification.

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 attended other alternative high schools for at-risk students operated by the district. Beginning with the 1992–93 school year, these other alternative education programs were located on the same campus as the Model Alternative High School. In 1993–94, these other programs were merged with Model Alternative. According to district records, in the first two years after random assignment (representing the 1991–92 and 1992–93 school years), 24% of control group students attended one of the alternative programs that merged with Model Alternative in the fall of 1993.

Outcome descriptions

Five relevant outcomes from the Stockton 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 at the end of the third 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 third follow-up year. (See Appendices A2.1, A2.2, and A2.3 for a more detailed description of outcome measures.)

Support for implementation

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

 

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