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The Effect of Mentoring on School Attendance and Academic Outcomes: A Randomized Evaluation of the Check & Connect Program (WP-20-40)

Jonathan Guryan, Sandra Christenson, Ashley Cureton, Ijun Lai, Jens Ludwig, Catherine Schwarz, Emma Shirey, and Mary Clair Turner

In response to budget problems, many urban school systems reduced resources for getting students to come to school, like truancy officers. Chicago, for instance, went from 150 truancy officers down to, in 1991, a total of zero. Is that a good idea? The researchers explore here the effects of increased support by a pro-social adult, or “social capital,” delivered through a structured student monitoring and mentoring program called Check & Connect (C&C). They carried out a large-scale randomized controlled trial with C&C in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to students in grades 1-8. Program participation decreased absences in grades 5-7 by 4.2 days, or 22.9 percent, but with no detectable effects on students in grades 1-4. The authors also did not find statistically significant effects on learning outcomes such as test scores or GPA, or any detectable spillovers to other students within the schools where the program was administered. The modest impacts per dollar spent, compared to previous evidence on either low-cost "nudges" or relatively intensive, higher-cost interventions, raise the possibility that, for very disadvantaged students, there may be decreasing but then increasing returns to program intensity for the problem of student disengagement.

Jonathan Guryan, Lawyer Taylor Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Sandra Christenson, Professor Emerita, Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota

Ashley Cureton, Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, Johns Hopkins University

Ijun Lai, Mathematica

Jens Ludwig, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

Catherine Schwarz, Urban Labs, University of Chicago

Emma Shirey, Research Manager Crime Lab and Education Lab, University of Chicago

Mary Clair Turner, Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University

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