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Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes for Disadvantaged Youth

February 2015

Philip J. Cook, Kenneth Dodge, George Farkas, Roland G. Fryer Jr, Jens Ludwig, Susan Mayer, Harold Pollack, Laurence Steinberg


Increasingly policymakers are concerned that improving academic performance after adolescence is cost prohibitive, and we should therefore direct funds to interventions at much younger ages. The researchers show through a random trial of male youth on Chicago’s south side that this is not necessarily the case. The trial group received intensive individual instruction and saw very significant improvement in test scores and behavior. The cost was around $2,800 per student, much lower than typically thought is needed to be effective.

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Policy Implications

Adolescence is often seen as “too late” to help poor and underachieving students, but this study shows that is not necessarily the case. The authors argue that the real issue is the way that classrooms are typically set up does not benefit students that are behind. By providing individual attention and one on one instructional time, student performance and behavior can be significantly improved in a cost effective way.

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