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Study of Jobs Program Finds 'Disappointing' Impact

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A public-private summer employment and remediation program for at-risk teenagers that had shown promising short-term results and has been replicated at 100 sites in 15 states has had a "disappointing'' long-term impact, according to a new study of some of its earliest participants.

The Summer Training and Education Program, which provides summer job training and employment, remediation, and life skills for disadvantaged youths, has been found to boost short-term academic success, but it has failed to reduce the dropout and teen-pregnancy rates for participants four and five years after the program, the study shows.

"The results of the data analysis are consistent and clear: STEP had no long-term impacts on its participants,'' says the "sobering'' review of the eight-year-old project by Public/Private Ventures, a nonprofit Philadelphia research organization that designed the program.

"STEP was an intensive intervention that produced immediate positive effects, yet no measurable impact on later behavior, decisions, or activities,'' concludes the 75-page report, "Anatomy of a Demonstration.''

The STEP program was launched as a five-city demonstration project in 1985 with funding from the U.S. Labor Department, the Ford Foundation, and other sources. Youths were provided jobs under the summer-employment program of the Job Training Partnership Act, and were also paid to attend classes in reading and mathematics remediation, pregnancy prevention, and other life skills.

The program's success in its initial three years was documented by comparing results with a control group of youths who had summer jobs in the program but did not get the other services. That success prompted interest in replicating the program elsewhere.

However, the new follow-up study of the second- and third-year participants of the original projects found that 22 percent to 27 percent had dropped out of high school by the time they should have finished, a rate similar to the control group's.

About one-third of girls from the program who had reached age 18 or 19 by 1990 had children, also a rate similar to the control group's.

Michael A. Bailin, president of Public/Private Ventures, said tinkering with the program would not change the long-term results because as long as students were actively involved, it succeeded. But short-term interventions "cannot alone produce long-term change,'' he said.

Copies of the report are available for $5 each from Public/Private Ventures, 399 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.--M.W.

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