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Finding Cost-Effective Ways to Reduce Truancy and Crime: An Evaluation of the Ramsey County Truancy Intervention Programs

Award Information

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Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $552,163)

Statement of the Problem: Truancy is a barrier to high school graduation and a risk factor for criminal involvement. One-third of all public high school students in the U.S. fail to graduate, which equates to 7,000 students dropping out of school every day. Thousands of truancy prevention programs exist, but they rarely have been rigorously evaluated. In particular, little is known about how the justice system can reduce truancy. We propose a rigorous quasi-experimental study of the long-term effects on academic and criminal justice outcomes of two truancy interventions in Minnesota run by the justice system: the Truancy Intervention Program {TIP; for students ages 12-17) and the Family Truancy Intervention Program(FTIP; for ages 5-11). Subjects: This study links secondary data from the Ramsey County, Minnesota Attorney's Office with data from the Minnesota Departments of Education and Corrections for the years 2001-2013. Individual-level outcomes are tracked for 12 years for 36,514 students in grades K-12 (in 167 schools) who received TIP/FTIP plus equivalent-sized comparison groups. Students are approximately 53% male, 41% African American, 19% Asian, 16% Hispanic, and 3% Native American. Partnerships: The study involves a partnership between the Ramsey County Attorney's Office, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The Ramsey County Attorney's Office designed and manages the truancy interventions. The two academic partners bring expertise in quasi-experimental designs and cost-effectiveness analysis as well as a successful history working with TIP. Research Design and Methods: Data will be analyzed using a regression discontinuity design and propensity score matching. The key hypotheses are: 1) TIP and FTIP effectively reduce truancy and dropout, promote on-time grade completion and graduation, and reduce incarcerations; 2) these programs work equally well for all students, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status; and 3) both programs are cost-effective. A strength of this study is its ability to resolve five methodological problems of much previous research: 1) lack of equivalent comparison groups, 2) high attrition rates in the program, 3) small sample sizes, 4) lack of long-term follow-up, and 5) lack of determination of how program effects differ across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Analysis: Analysis will be conducted using primarily random effects time-to-event models. Products, Reports, and Data Archiving: Project staff will publish multiple manuscripts and policy briefs and make presentations to educational and legal professionals and policy makers working to reduce the incidence and impact of truancy at individual and community levels. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 14, 2014