Academic-educational interventions aim to improve school performance, school engagement, and academically-oriented behavior and are, therefore, somewhat different from the other intervention families in the guidelines that focus more directly on youth behavior. Academic performance is a risk factor for externalizing behavior, which, as many teachers will confirm, can manifest in school settings. Although not usually the primary focus, interventions with an academic or educational focus may provide collateral benefits on youth behavior by promoting positive youth development in general. Our recommendations in this chapter highlight the effective core components of academic and educational programs that we found produced the best impacts on externalizing behavior. These programs may also have positive effects on academic performance and school engagement, but our recommendations focus on effective components that you may consider emphasizing or adding to an existing program should you be interested in also improving youth behavior.
Our evidence base for academic-educational interventions includes tutoring and academic support, academic interventions with a vocational focus, and interventions that change or reorganize the school environment or structure. Changes to school structure include small class sizes, varied class paces to meet student needs, alternative schools, “schools-within-schools,” and dedicated time for academic interventions within or outside the school day. School structure interventions typically include a full spectrum of course work using interdisciplinary curricula best suited to students’ needs, often with a focus on reading, math, and/or career experiences.
Characteristics of academic-educational Interventions (75 studies contributed evidence)
- Interventions lasted 37 weeks on average, or approximately one school year.
- Sessions typically took place more than twice a week – often daily during the school week.
- Most took place in the classroom (68%). Others took place in a separate space within the school (resource room or school counselor’s office; 9%) or a community setting (23%).
- Many of the interventions in this category were delivered by teachers (59%).
- School within a school: An intervention focused on school structure included sophomore students at risk of dropping out of high school with a history of academic, attendance, or motivation problems. Class sizes were smaller than those for the rest of the school. Students were organized into cohorts that attended blocks of classes together. Courses were designed to have a career/vocational theme; students participated in field trips and attended guest presentations related to the theme. Students were also matched with a mentor in the same industry who committed to working with the student monthly.
- Tutoring and enrichment: This intervention used early morning sessions to increase learning time. The sessions were designed to improve achievement and attendance and reduce disciplinary referrals. Classroom teachers volunteered to provide tutoring and enrichment activities for targeted skill development in critical thinking and conflict resolution as well as tutoring in math and reading. They also provided counseling support to improve student self-concept and school attitudes. Sessions were a mix of one-on-one, group, and computer-based activities. Parents were also involved through workshops, trainings, and visits to the sessions, and students engaged with community role models and participated in field trips