The African-American and Latino teenagers in a Chicago math-tutoring-on-steroids experiment fit a dismal profile of being as many as seven years behind in reading and 10 in math–16-year-olds with the skills of third graders, writes public policy Prof. David Kirp of the University of California Berkeley in the New York Times. The previous year they missed more than a month of school, on average, and when they appear, they were often banished to the disciplinarian. Nearly a fifth of them had arrest records. Not only were they disproportionately likely to drop out, they were also prime candidates for the school-to-gang-to-prison pipeline, Kirp says.
After just one year in an intensive tutoring and mentoring program known as Match, participants ended up as much as two years ahead of students in a control group who didn't get such help. A report from the University of Chicago Crime Lab finds that they performed substantially better on the Chicago school system's math test; their scores reduced the usual black-white test score gap by a third. This success carried over to non-math classes. Greater success in math helped get them on track to graduate. It led them to become more engaged in school, and they were 60 percent less likely than members of the control group to be arrested for a violent crime. Kirp calls the results “staggering,” saying he knows of “no initiative for disadvantaged young men of color that comes close.” “Just a few years of this type of intervention could bring almost all students up to grade level,” said Crime Lab director Jens Ludwig. “By then they can benefit from what's being taught in regular classes and have real hope for a high school diploma.”