Grant recipient: Measured Decisions, Inc.
Term: 2016 –2020
Principal Investigator: Geoffrey D. Borman, Ph. D., Measured Decisions, Inc.
Summary: This project is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a “social belonging intervention” consisting of two 15-minute in-class writing exercises provided to students entering middle school – i.e., fall of 7th grade – a time of transition to a larger, less personal school environment that many perceive as intimidating. The exercises ask the students to consider a specific school experience in which they might feel social or academic uncertainty (e.g., related to test taking or fitting in with peers), prompts them with stories from other beginning middle-school students about how they struggled initially but eventually got through it, and asks the participating students to write about how they can manage their own difficulties and ultimately overcome them.
A prior well-conducted RCT in Madison, Wisconsin with a sample of 1,500 students found statistically-significant impacts on GPA, failing grades, disciplinary referrals, and absences (effect sizes were modest, between 0.09 to 0.14 standard deviations). This new study is a replication trial, which will be conducted in seven middle schools in Paradise Valley School District in Arizona, with a sample of approximately 2,000 7th grade students. It will measure GPA, behavioral referrals, attendance, and other outcomes using school records. If positive impacts are found after one school year, the study will measure these outcomes over two additional years to determine whether the effects endure.
The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.
This study has been completed. A plain-language summary of the findings is available here.