Jan 262016

January 2016 – The Policy & Research Group has been selected as the external evaluator for the Center for Supportive Schools’ Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. PRG will assist the Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) by providing formative analyses during the implementation of the Peer Group Connection and conducting a rigorous impact evaluation that will estimate the efficacy of the intervention on student outcomes.

The Department of Education i3 funding provides support local educational agencies and nonprofit organizations to improve student outcomes in school through innovative practices. The i3 initiative provides competitive grants to applicants with a record of improving student achievement and attainment in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices that are demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement or student growth, closing achievement gaps, decreasing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, or increasing college enrollment and completion rates.

The 5-year Peer Group Connection (PGC) project will implement a school-based, high school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program for 9th grade students designed to improve non-cognitive abilities and enhance student engagement to support academic and other school-related outcomes.

Through PGC, freshmen are immersed in safe, supportive groups led by older peer leaders. PGC trains existing school faculty members rather than requiring non-school or additional school staff; taps into older students, an underutilized resource, as peer leaders who support younger students; ensures peer leaders receive rigorous training through a credit-bearing daily leadership course; and is integrated into the school day increasing the likelihood that it becomes institutionalized and sustained over time. PGC seeks to build upon the results from a single randomized control trial that show improved educational outcomes for low-income students. The project will serve high-need freshmen in six low-income rural North Carolina high schools. PRG is conducting an impact evaluation that will employ an individual-level randomized controlled trial (RCT) to draw causal inferences about the effects (impact) of PGC on specific participant-reported non-cognitive abilities, student engagement, and educational outcomes, as well as an implementation evaluation to understand how PGC works in practice, interpret its efficacy, provide feedback for program improvement, and identify features and conditions necessary for sustainability and replication.