WWC review of this study

Impact of California's Cal-Learn Demonstration Project: Final Report.

Mauldon, J., Malvin, J., Stiles, J., Nicosia, N., & Seto, E. (2000). Berkeley, CA: University of California, UC DATA.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    906
     Students
    , grade
    12
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: December 2006

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

Completed high school or GED

Financial Incentives for Teen Parents to Stay in School vs. Business as usual

Posttest

18 and older at survey;
906 students

29.1

24.2

Yes

 
 
6
Staying in school outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Dropped out

Financial Incentives for Teen Parents to Stay in School vs. Business as usual

Posttest

18 and older at survey;
906 students

44.7

52.3

Yes

 
 
8

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 100%
    Male: 0%
  • Race
    Black
    27%
    Not specified
    5%
    White
    21%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    47%
    Not Hispanic
    53%
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    California

Setting

The program was administered by welfare offices in four counties in California: Alameda, Los Angeles, San Bernadino, and San Joaquin.

Study sample

Between 1994 and 1997 custodial parents and pregnant teens under age 19 on welfare who did not have a high school diploma or GED were randomly assigned using the last two digits of their Social Security number to one of four groups: full Cal-Learn (including case management and financial incentives), case management only, financial incentives only, and no treatment. This WWC report focuses on the financial incentives and no treatment conditions. The evaluation samples were selected from the lists of all teens in each research county who appeared to be Cal-Learn eligible based on electronic and paper records, which indicated that they were pregnant or custodial teen parents on welfare. After males and those registered in error were removed, the sample was 4,859, and 2,682 of those teens responded to the Wave I survey. Interviews for the Wave I survey were conducted between April 1996 and April 1999, with an average of 13 months between program entry and interview. Additional exclusions were made for teens who lost custody of their children, moved to a nonresearch county or out of state, left AFDC, or did not participate for at least six months. After the additional exclusions, the survey evaluation sample consisted of 2,156 respondents, including 554 in the financial incentives group and 549 in the no treatment group. The Wave II survey was administered for the 2,156 Wave I respondents who were not excluded from the sample, with 1,562 respondents. This data were collected 26 months after program entry, on average, and outcomes from the Wave I survey were used for teens who did not respond to the Wave II survey. Since the study does not present overall findings for the entire sample, this review presents the findings for teens age 18 and older at the most recent survey, which comprises nearly 83% of study teens. For 65% of the teens in the survey sample, Cal-Learn began when they were 17 or 18 years old, while the remaining 35% entered the sample when they were 16 or younger. The average age was 17.2. Most participants (72%) entered Cal-Learn with only one child, while 24% had no children and 4% entered with two or more children. Of teens age 18 or older at their latest interview, 67% reported that they were enrolled in school when they entered Cal-Learn, compared with 33% who were not. All teens in the analysis sample are female. The sample was 47% Hispanic, 27% African-American, 21% white, and 5% other.

Intervention Group

The program featured two key elements: financial bonuses and penalties for either making progress in school or failing to make progress and intensive, individualized case management to help each client move toward high school graduation or GED receipt. Cal-Learn clients who graduated with a high school diploma or earned a GED received a $500 reward through a personal check. Prior to graduation, good progress was rewarded with a $100 bonus check applied to the family welfare grant of a Cal-Learn teen when she received a report card indicating satisfactory progress (at least a C average). But if the Cal-Learn teen did not turn in a report card or had a report card showing inadequate progress (a D– or F average), the family welfare check was reduced by a total of $100 (two $50 deductions over two consecutive months). Teens who earned an average grade between C and D were rated as making adequate progress and received neither a bonus nor a sanction. Up to four report cards a year were assessed to determine if bonuses or sanctions were warranted. In addition, all participants who were attending school were entitled to receive subsidies for support services—child care, transportation, and other school-related expenses. Generally, bonuses were issued within a month, while sanctions took two months.

Comparison Group

Control group students were neither directed toward case management nor eligible to receive bonuses or sanctions. All teens in the evaluation were offered support services, including reimbursement for child care, transportation to school, and school-related expenses.

Outcome descriptions

The study included a measure of staying in school (dropped out) and a measure of completing school (received high school diploma or GED). Dropping out and high school diploma receipt were taken from survey responses, while GED receipt came from administrative records.

Support for implementation

Information on staff training was not available.

 

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