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Findings from RCT Grants

A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Social Belonging Mindset Intervention for Students Entering Middle School

This well-conducted RCT found a modest, statistically significant impact on students’ grade point average at the end of seventh grade.

Grantee: Measured Decisions, Inc. The full study report is posted here.

Description of the Intervention: This is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate a low-cost social belonging” intervention comprised of two, 15-minute, in-class writing exercises designed to provide students with reassurance and advice from their peer group that difficulties occur for everyone entering middle school, and that they, too, will overcome these difficulties. A prior well-conducted RCT with a sample of 1,500 students in Madison, WI found that the intervention produced statistically significant impacts on grade-point average (GPA), number of failing grades, disciplinary referrals, and absences (effect sizes were modest, between 0.09 to 0.14 standard deviations). 

Study Design: This study sought to replicate the prior RCT in a new setting, Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona. The study sample was comprised of 2,316 students from seven schools, who were randomly assigned to either a treatment group that received the intervention at the beginning of 7th grade (when students transitioned from elementary to middle school), or a control group that did not. The primary outcome was GPA, measured using district administrative data. 

Impact on the Primary Outcome: The study found a modest, statistically significant (p<0.01) impact on GPA at the end of the 7th grade. Average GPA in the treatment group was 2.91, compared to 2.85 in the control group (an effect size of 0.06 standard deviations). Results from a longer-term follow-up, which examines whether the 7th-grade impacts are sustained through the end of 8th and 9th grade, are forthcoming. 

Study Quality: After careful review, we believe this was a well-conducted RCT which produced valid findings.1

  1. 1

    For example, the study had successful random assignment (as evidenced by highly similar treatment and control groups), low sample attrition that was non-differential between groups (6.6% in the treatment group vs. 6.0% in the control group), and valid analyses that were publicly pre-registered.