Center for Supportive Schools

Improving Educational Outcomes in High Need, Low-Income Rural High Schools in North Carolina through a High School Transition and Cross-Age Peer Mentoring Model

Over the five years of this project, the Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) will partner with at least six low-income, rural high schools in North Carolina to implement a school-based, high school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program known as Peer Group Connection (PGC). PGC taps into the power of high school juniors and seniors to create a nurturing environment for incoming freshmen. PGC is designed to improve students’ non-cognitive abilities and increase student engagement as pathways for increasing student achievement as measured by on-time promotion rates and persistence in school.

Description of Project

This 5-year project investigates the efficacy of a school-based, high school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program for 9th grade students designed to improve non-cognitive abilities and enhance student engagement to support academic and other school-related outcomes, known as Peer Group Connection-High School (PGC-HS). This project seeks to build upon the results from a previously conducted single randomized control trial that had shown improved educational outcomes for low-income students. The project serves high-need freshmen in low-income rural North Carolina high schools.

Description of Evaluation

The Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) and The Policy & Research Group (PRG) are conducting an experimental study to measure program impacts on non-cognitive abilities and student engagement, such as perceptions of peer support for working hard and doing well in school; competence in peer relationships; aspirations for future education; valuing education; and goal-setting, decision-making, and coping skills; and examine the extent to which these impacts translate into increased on-time promotion rates, decreased dropout rates, and higher 4-year cohort graduation rates. In each partner school, incoming 9th grade students are randomly assigned to either a treatment (PGC-HS) or control group. Over the 5-year project, CSS will partner with up to six high schools to participate in the project resulting in a total study sample of approximately 1,500 students.