« Freakonomics Radio

189. How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps

2014-12-04 | 🔗
Okay, maybe the steps aren’t so easy. But a program run out of a Toronto housing project has had great success in turning around kids who were headed for trouble.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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My name is Carolyn occur. I would see executive actor of the region- part community Helsinki Regent Park in downtown Toronto. no one for having one of Canada's oldest biggest worst housing private so we're doing. All this work were investing more and more dollars. I when I went to region, particularly health, sinner nineteen. Ninety two, the budget was about to. in eight million by a boat, eighteen, ninety six. Ninety seven budget was close to six million instead of things improving things, we're getting worse in terms of crying and murder and violence. This kind of We were very distressed over what was happy, to our young people, and we did really understand it. We were doing more and more always investing more, and we
seeing an improvement, we're about nine murders in regional park, in not two thousand, which was the year before, we started pathways to education, hath ways to education was a voluntary programme for high school kids region park. It wasn't an education programme. Exactly was more like life support the path program, they say has four pillars. Those account slain academic, social and financial, its Philip orientalists he's economists at nursery of Toronto, with particular interest in education over the years or Borealis, had heard about pathway That was something of a miracle cure for low performing high schoolers. He wondered if that could possibly be true, Have we to education? Had a pro bono study done
and the two thousands by consulting from and the director that did. The pro bono study was a member of the board of pathways and came out report. I can feel your antenna as an empirical economist already going up ray. I may report by a concept, Missus Boffin Consulting Group, I believe right there was Boston, consulting and who are good and reputable, but still a pro bono report. Commission, I someone who's also sitting on the board of the non profit. it's running the thing you might feel a bit skeptical. Yes, what was striking about report was it suggested that before pathways to drop out rate was fifty six percent and very soon after pathways was introduced. The drop out rate with ten poorest so you had a forty six percentage point fall in the drop out rate, and the report is a tribute to the introduction pathways and this type of man to new factors
the unheard of in the education literature. It's like the holy GRAIL of programmes that try to improve the outcomes, especially among disadvantaged households, and if these results were true, we should try to figure out exam. how to replicate them across the country and in the U S, because you are so large woods a lot of our problems so on today's programme were the results true. If so, how did it happen and most important when the rest of us sign up? I'm fine, from w and my see this is free. I'm Ex radio the pie, calves that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host, Stephen Governor
Carolyn occur, was running a community health centres and trot housing project, I was driven to break the cycle of poverty, honey, break the cycle of poverty. Well, Education and income are the two most powerful determinants of health. We talked about this in our last episode. The huge returns to education, especially if you ve, got a good teacher. We know a good teacher increase, the lifetime income of a classroom by over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. We also talk about how you s, teachers on average, aren't as good as we might lake, and that is not necessarily their fault so I think it s the way we train teachers is fundamentally broken in this country, but teachers in schools.
are only one side of the education equation is also students and their families and the schools don't have much to say how well equipped or motivated those kids. We often use the jokingly say. You know the facts it's a best, kids that they have the first educate him. By the same token, kids come with the best parents. They ve been again, and we have to take a more they are for. Here is the paradox. The returns to education are huge, but kind of kid really needs those big returns. Kid from up or maybe broken family, is least likely to get a good education as much as the school system might want to help not really set up for it. So what about a community health center and housing project, He wasn't an obvious idea in the beginning, at least even to Caroline ECHO in the community, had quite a stigma.
that was sensationalize and made a lot of headlines right region park, as is horrible place in and look happening there. Now we never that way. We felt a privilege to be able to serve the community and very distressed by the fact that we were working. harder and expanding more efforts in investment to improve the health of the community, and we Seeing can improve at all they kept trying new things and we were doing our third or fourth strategic plan. Finally, they couldn't help but notice the relationship between school and all the bad stuff happening in region We worked with the Toronto District School Board, Plato, Thus we had a fifty six percent high school dropout rate and that only twenty percent of Kids were going on to post secondary and when the director of the programme came and told me that said now. I know why these kids are shooting each other. They have no hope and no future
Tucker and their colleagues change. Their focus. I didn't dwelling on all the bad outcomes in their neighborhood about the good outcome is rare as they might be and we live in focus groups who did the young people who grew up in region park who had made it to you personally were doing well. We asked him what made the difference in their lives and every one of those people told us somebody took them under their wing. It was either a teacher. It was either parts. recreation person and they taught them and they helped them all the way. Now this He happened to a handful of people spontaneously, but we were listening. Listening exceptionally important and we determined they lack academic support is absolutely no one. They can go to for help with homework they lack social capital and am no networks whatsoever. They go from one house of
ready to another there's no enter uncle. Who can help them get a job so thing I have to make an old boys network here and she and her staff came up with basically the pathways to education model. That's Philip Orientalists, the University of Toronto faced with the idea and the motivation being that, if they could break this cycle by reducing the drop out rates and encouraging individuals in the community to go onto doing well in their careers and then give back to the community that they came from. That would be a way to try to turn the community around pathways to education would be a voluntary programmes funded
primarily by the government and nonprofit. All you had to do to qualify would be a high school kid in the neighborhood, a contract, one with the parent that you'll do everything you're supposed to do in two thousand and one and pathways began. One hundred and fifteen incoming freshman signed up every year. The new cohort was added within a few years, more than six hundred kids were participating in the program spread to. two other housing projects in Toronto. The take up rate was about eighty five percent, its unique in that the origins of the programme are neighbourhood based its not directly explicitly tied to this wars, and yet they coordinate a lot with the We're hoods source is important because it helps give the students sense of community even away from the school that their part of this group honour off the school grounds and that its community really paying attention to them? It's a community trying to get him to sign up for the programme and the community to provide,
the support That's what Carolyn occur, means by all boys network to get Regent port kids to go to cool to do well and could take more. just one or two lines of intervention vector, took four counselling, academic, tutoring social activities and financial incentives. On the council side, every student that enters great nine gets assigned student parents, support worker column, SBS Dubious, the SBA studies, are paid advocates who meet on a regular basis, with the students to check in how they're doing an it's their job,
I've been war to help ensure the academic success of the student. The next pillar is on the academic side, where tutoring services are available up to four nights a week. Students have to visit there, S p w twice a month and their expected to attend. Shooting MRS twice a week, and thus, if their grades are above a certain mount around seventy percent and as incentives to do those things, there's the financial pillar. So as long as a student continues to participate in all the activism pathways, they are eligible to receive free public transportation that can get them war and back and also a college scholarship that builds up to four thousand dollars by the end of high school, four thousand for each year of college or total, so financial incentives, but, let's be honest, not huge, free transportation, certainly not huge,
but something and enforce our knowledge. And yet, when interviewing the students participating pathway, it is clear that the public transportation is a big deal to them that they feel that they have to participate in order to get the public imitation tickets, or else that they would be walking to school on when they see their friends getting the free public transportation as well. I think that they see that as a big advantage that they want to do. We have a contract parent sign it because we need permission to look at the grades, look at the marks so that, when apparent called up and You didn't give my Johnny enough bus tickets, we would say El Johnny Skip School on Wednesday. That's why he didn't get too. For that day, oh, he did ditty. The kids told me they would get the bus tickets
and they sell em for cigarettes only the first time, because he would learn right away now they can't get to school and then the last pillars, the social pillar, where pathways dooms are eligible and required to go to at least one group activity among and these group activities are designed want to keep them out of trouble and encourage them to hang out with also academic the interested students and two to have fun or even learn something along the way to develop a new hobby, and so the activities can range from a sporting events or bowling nights. Sometimes it can even be more sophisticated where they will have caused a behavioral therapy and encourage dues to think about managing there
thus coming up on economics. Radio will learn just how effective pathways education was and what we really want to know of all those different interventions which ones were doing, the heavy lifting its virtually impasse to even imagine setting up the ideal experiment investigated, Fr Economics, radio is supported by zipper. Creetur businesses have had to be flexible. This from working remote. We, too pivoting their business models for long term survival. If you are in charge of hiring for your business. These pivots have made your
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But what most people don't know is that we're both really curious and passion about stem. If we have a more the first outlook and how we look at science and engineering and technology and map. Then what This is possible. I gotta go When I get to speak to these people, get a chance tat back into my curiosity excitement. You know that. I have a kid about all these topics so come on this journey with as we learn from some of the poorest smartest people in their fields? If then is out now just search, if slash than to find the show that, if slash then no spaces, listen in stature apple, the serious Ex m F or wherever you get your PA casts from W and Y see. This is for economics, radio, here's your host Stephen governor
Philip Borealis, had heard that pathways to education is phenomenal, successfully helping kid stay in school and do well. But the source of this rumour was a report that has been commissioned by Pathways Board member for ya, powerless as a research academic want to look at the data for himself right, so I started engaging pathways and possibly working with their data. while back it took me a few years to come, some that I was generally Aren't you to evaluate the program and look in the programme from partisan perspective- and I think to their credit that they were also into arrested and having a third party evaluate the programme worry populist was able to get hold of some publicly available data, but it was when pathway started, feeding him
error data that he could really measure what was going just prior to the introduction Palfreys Programming, two thousand and one the enter great nine students in two thousand. then show graduation rate figure, reservation rate for them was forty percent, and Two years later. It does jump up quite a bit too almost sixty percent. So a twentieth percentage point ink peace and a graduation rate for students who were entering from region part and keep in mind. The programme is phased in, starting from great nines entering in two thousand and one so great, in two thousand one. We're not eligible, but great nines,
and then all the great nines entering afterwards for eligible for pathways as they compare that to the change in the graduation rates for students from other housing projects, the increase in graduation was less than five percent points. She had to twenty percent point, increase the two year periods for stems from region park, and then you had only three or four percent point change in the other products. So the estimated impact of the programme is about a fifteen sixteen percent for an increase in the high school graduation rate with which is huge via its huge. It's not the large effect that the Boston consulting firm was fighting, but still it's a large enough effect to get really excited about sewed. Not only do I find large increases in high school graduation, but also about a twenty percent point increase in college going as well
so one would think that educators and politicians around the world are looking at this as a beacon of late and saying, hey, let's replicate, replicate, replicate or adjust to our own needs. Is that the case, or no more sometimes, I described the pathways programme do. People outside of Canada has the Harlem Children's of Canada. We have this interesting programmes relatively young at that we are becoming more aware of. That seems to be successful, at least in the settings it had been so far examined. I think the programme certainly intriguing to want to consider for expansion both in Canada. In the? U S, I think, overall, there is some effort to try to disentangle what parts the programme. What are they the ingredients that are really driving these positive impacts and take
from that knowledge ways to surround the programme, Philip in the paper you with your co authors right. It is not possible to tell from the results in this paper whether only a few components of the programme drive the results or whether its integration is crucial. So can you talk to me about that from it? Why, You can't tell which of these different interventions are the ones that are moving the needle and which of these, perhaps you suspect, are driving the games, because the analysis simply looks What happens to these graduation rates or college going rates before and after the programme compared to some comparison groups: The main estimated effects are on the overall impact of the programme. What happened when the programme was introduced, but of course that doesn't really say even with these large impact. What's driving that, whether it's just one component or one pillar of the programme or whether it is really important that all this,
services are provided. At the same time, I think it's virtually impossible to even imagine setting up the idea or experiment investigate that the title of my papers and integrated approach for helping disadvantaged youth created, because I think it may well be that a student who goes to see his Espy stubby era gets advice is to make sure that they're going to tutoring and while they're going to tutoring, they meet some friends or students, and then they get encouraged go to the group activity and then they keep doing this because they want the incentives. So everything is sort of working together to help ensure the participation. Philip, you write that the cost of this programme is nearly five thousand dollars per student per year. This, of course, is on top of the class already going to the public school through taxes and so on, and that doesn't include pro bono, tutoring and so on. So in some places you know five thousand.
a year? On top of all those other things that are not counted in a dollar fashion here that buys a kid: a good private, school education so considering the cost of this programme per head, what can you tell us about? Overall are ally's. You said that you found that pathways education really increases Highschool completion. an post secondary in roman law, but is large. Those gain seem, you know, first of all, its relatively expensive and second of all, its still. Barely half of these kids are finished. high school even so end or going to college. If the impact that were finding from power is really correct in terms of a fifteen percent point increase in the high school graduation arrayed, a twenty percent point increase in the college going rate. If these translates
higher earnings, say ten percent a year or fifteen percent a year and possible non pecuniary benefits as well: better health, lower crime rates, more social participation. These benefits are huge because they're added up over lifetime, where is the cost of pathways, is in only for a four year five year, the potential impact from just a small increase. The rate of return from these would lead to an increase, in lifetime wealth that is likely to be quite substantially more than the twenty thousand total cost of the programme and, in fact, with some back of the home. Estimates. I find that the tax revenue alone from the higher earnings is enough to cover the present value of the programme
Philip orientalists wanted to measure the efficacy of pathways to education, not only because he's an economist who pays attention to education, but because he thinks that most economists who pay attention to education I'm missing the point for the longest time you can. Onix is modeled education as a well thought out investments, and so all decisions are the right ones at the students decide set here, she doesn't want to study or she wants to drop out of high school Our traditional models say that that's the right thing to do that they're doing the best but they can, under their circumstances, the ability in and what not and more recently economic
started, incorporating elements of psychology and sociology in a neuroscientist to recognize that we don't always get it right when thinking about the term investment decisions, especially when it has to do with ourselves and and these kinds of things in one of your papers. You make the point that young people, while meeting education to do well later or kind of the worst candidates, understanding how much they need education to do well later and you opened with a quote from Aristotle to never aid which I love. The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet right. My father always mentioned quote when I was a kid to remind me that, however, bitter d experienced, education is right now that the effort from sting homo Friday, night or doings that doesn't really seen
exciting, were fun and requiring concentration and thinking. However tedious the benefits are long term and their big and the difficulty making these its decisions. I is especially true for children and adolescents. His brains are just not even developed at a point when the cortex and parts of the brain that are really focused on trying to in the future and think about the consequences are taking them. Here's to develop is this: do you think, problem that were only starting to realize. Now. Ours is something you know, look Aristotle knew it did. We forget it for a few thousand years and where and were just getting back to. It is something that you think education, folks and Ed reform. People of known all along, I think, were starting to pay more attention to the possibility at a more behavioral model might be a better way of describing how individuals are making schooling decisions, and that opens up to a lot of a possibilities for power
so, on the one hand, students Maine beginning always right? That's not to say that the always get it wrong, but Abraham there's room with this knowledge to come in and think about alternative ways to help that we haven't thought about before. So if you think of education as a form of investing and as we know when it comes to investing their all kinds of mistakes to be made, what kind of mistakes do students make in thinking about education I guess I'm a boil down to four points. One is a students are often too focused on the present day, DE emphasised a future, they don't think about it as much as they should. The second is that students tend to
over rely on routine just keep doing what they ve been doing and not I think maybe other routines might be better for them. Three is that students sometimes think too much about negative identities. They focus on what they're not good at or they might hang out with the wrong crowd and be whence negatively in that way, and the fourth one is that mistakes and more likely in Brussels situations or in situations where there is not enough information right. So when you talk about then integration and you talk about all the different components of it- there is the social worker that's attached to the students and the parents. There's the academic tutoring. There's a financial incentives is the
activities in the social pillar when you describe it like that, and when I read about the programme itself, it strikes me that basically, this programme is performing the function of a community and the family within the community. So I'm just curious. I know it's attractive because it works well and because its relatively unusual, but did not strike you at any point that holy cow? What this programme is doing essentially back filling for what society and families used are already be doing on their own. Without a special programme designed to achieve it is possible as possible that the programme is succeeding because not enough support at home or in other parts of the community. I think all households to some degree or other, sometimes
miss out on providing encouragement or that nudge towards using services that students themselves may not feel that they want two years. I think one interesting possible is that the programme is working essentially by me, dating that some student see. Someone on a regular basis to talk about their academic goes to get reminded about why there in school or where they're going in to get me. to use tutoring services, even if they dont really feel that they have time or that they don't need the help
Carolyn actor, who helped set up pathways education, was instrumental in making the tutoring mandatory. And she's, not even a behavioral economists nope her background nursing. That's where she learned to listen, so I jigs actually, told us to make tutor mandatory after our first year, which we called a pilot year, we brought in the youth, we did focus groups with the tutors and manner. How do we improve this and we asked the young people
How do we increase attendance at tutoring and the nautilus boys of all looked jettison said you have to make its mandate so you see the young people want structure and they want to, oh, that somebody's caring about them. We care. If you skip school, thanks for listening to this episode, which fell. on last week's, and these two episodes
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-12.