Excerpted from the SEP by the SEED program, a subgrantee of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.
In this example, the policy problem that the program addresses is presented in the first two paragraphs. Here’s sample language.
Sweeping changes in the U.S. economy and labor market over the past three decades have dramatically reduced the availability of well-paying jobs for workers without post-secondary education. And yet, one-fourth of high school freshmen nationwide do not graduate in four years, and many who do complete school are not ready to perform college level work. These trends are particularly pronounced in urban areas, and among students from low-income and underserved families.
This paragraph provides background from previous research to situate the problem that the SEED program tackles.
With this in mind, policy makers, practitioners and researchers have developed and promoted a variety of approaches to improving students’ high school options. One approach operates outside of the existing public education system by creating new institutions, such as charter schools, that offer an alternative to and thus compete with public high schools (Gleason, et al., 2010). A second approach operates within the existing public education system by attempting comprehensive reform of failing high schools based on reform models such as Career Academies (Kemple, 2008), Talent Development Schools (Kemple, Herlihy, & Smith, 2005), Project GRAD (Snipes, Holton, & Doolittle, 2006), and others. A key element of many of these reform models is the creation of small learning communities within existing schools. A third approach, which also works inside the existing public education system, is to close failing high schools (which in urban areas are often quite large) and replace them with new public high schools that are small in size and open to all students.
The subsequent paragraphs introduce the SEED program and provide information about the program theory and program components. (Please scroll down to view all of the highlighted content.)
The SEED Foundation is a national nonprofit that partners with urban communities to provide innovative educational opportunities that prepare underserved students for success in college and beyond. SEED believes in college attainment and completion as a solution to urban poverty. The SEED Foundation is the only organization in the U.S. that has successfully started and sustained urban, public, and college-prep boarding schools. The SEED School of Washington, D.C. (SEED DC), which opened in 1998, and The SEED School of Maryland, which opened in 2008, currently serve 582 students and are growing to serve 730 students in grades 6-12. In addition, SEED plans to open at least two new schools with support from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), likely in 2012 and 2013.
SEED schools attempt to take the best of the options detailed above and combine them together into an intensive and holistic intervention. SEED’s boarding school model is predicated on the assumption that, for certain disadvantaged students who face overwhelming barriers to success at home and in the community, the typical school reforms and enhancements (for example, after school programs, extended school hours) will not be sufficient (as outlined by SEED in the figure below). Rather, SEED believes that, for these students, achieving success in high school and beyond requires a fully-integrated academic and boarding program that also provides scheduled study time, constant access to positive role models, and life skills training.
In 2004, Perry Bacon of TIME magazine profiled students in the SEED School of Washington, D.C. and described their daily life as follows:
“The dorms are divided into “houses” of 10 to 14 students, which are named after universities, reflecting the school’s emphasis on college preparation. Two students share each small room, which contains little more than twin beds, two desks and, for upperclassmen, desktop computers. The schedule is purposefully intense. Each morning, after waking up at 5:45 a.m., the kids make their bed, get dressed in their uniform of khaki pants and white polo or Oxford shirt, then line up single file to go to the cafeteria for breakfast. Classes begin at 8 a.m. and last until 4 p.m. The late-afternoon hours are filled with extracurricular activities that range from choir to flag football. After dinner, the students go back to their dorms for an hour-long study hall before a half-hour of “quiet time,” then go to bed. There are few behavior problems. “They don’t have a lot of time to get into that stuff,” says Roz Fuller, the associate boarding director.”
SEED has been the subject of several qualitative studies and one impact study, conducted by Vilsa Curto and Roland Fryer, Jr. of Harvard University.1 Curto and Fryer’s study built on the admissions lottery for SEED DC to compare state standardized test scores for students who “won” the lottery and were offered admission to SEED for the 2006 and 2007 school years, with students who “lost” the lotteries in those years. The analysis, based on a small sample and a short follow-up period, found that SEED increased reading scores by 0.198 standard deviations and math scores by 0.230 standard deviations, per year of attendance. While both boys and girls experienced statistically significant positive effects of SEED enrollment, results were much stronger for girls than for boys.2
The research activities described below will build on the Curto and Fryer analysis by following a larger number of students for a longer period, obtaining data on a broader range of outcomes from school records and a student survey, and conducting an implementation study to more fully describe the SEED intervention. The design discussed below is limited by the size of the SEED schools, our ability to follow only one cohort through high school to four-year graduation, and the relatively recent establishment of the Maryland school. Thus, while the analysis will include all students who have gone through the SEED DC lotteries since 2006, and follow them for as long as possible within the SIF timeframe, the sample sizes for some parts of the analysis (those that focus on later high school outcomes) are relatively small. If possible, it will be important to continue the analysis beyond the three-year SIF period in order to obtain data on longer-term outcomes for a larger number of students.