Educators and policymakers tend to prioritize intervening in the early grades to help struggling students. But a new Israeli study suggests interventions even late in a student’s schooling can provide long-term benefits.
In a new working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, an international team of researchers from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, as well as Brown and Northwestern Universities in the United States, find that at-risk students who participated in remedial support in secondary school showed improvements in income and education in their 30s.
From 1999 to 2003, Israel provided supplemental academic enrichment to low-performing secondary students, including individualized instruction in small groups of up to five students in grades 10 through 12. The students were not randomly assigned to receive extra support, but the initiative created something of a natural experiment as it rolled out in fits and starts to schools across the country. The researchers linked students’ high school records to their National Social Security records as adults, to look at how they progressed in higher education and the labor market after graduating.
In the short term, struggling students who got the extra support were significantly more likely to graduate with a “matriculation certificate"—a higher degree than a standard high school diploma, similar to honors or college-ready diplomas used in some states in the United States. Fifty-two percent of the participating students earned that higher diploma, compared to only 42 percent of matched students who did not receive remediation.
Later, the differences in the two groups of students grew. The students who had participated in the remediation program completed 10 percentage points more years of college. By age 33, they were slightly more likely to be employed and their earnings were 4 percentage points higher each year than their peers who had not gotten the extra help. In particular, the study found “the remedial education program reduced sharply the link between child and parents’ income and allowed the treated children to get on a steeper trajectory of income dynamics relative to their parents.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.