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Research Questions

  1. How did the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic affect ChalleNGe sites?
  2. What measures can be used to evaluate the success of ChalleNGe?
  3. How is Job ChalleNGe perceived by its partners?
  4. What measures can be used to evaluate the success of Job ChalleNGe?

National Guard Youth ChalleNGe is a residential, quasi-military program for young people ages 16 to 18 who are experiencing difficulty in traditional high school. This report covers the program years 2020–2021 and is the sixth in a series of annual reports that RAND Corporation researchers have issued over the course of two research projects.

Each annual report supports the program's required annual report to Congress and documents the progress of participants who entered ChalleNGe during specific program years. In this report, the authors provide information on program participants in 2020–2021. The report also describes analyses in support of the Job ChalleNGe program.

The analytic approach includes a synthesis of the existing literature, qualitative data collected from virtual site visits and interviews, and quantitative program data. Caveats to be considered include some documented inconsistencies in reported data across sites and the short-run nature of many of the metrics reported here. This report will be of interest to ChalleNGe program staff and to personnel providing oversight for the program; it may also be of interest to policymakers and researchers concerned with designing effective youth programs or determining appropriate metrics by which to track progress in youth programs.

Key Findings

  • Despite disruptions caused by the pandemic, the ChalleNGe program was able to provide opportunities to thousands of young people.
  • Sites made many modifications in response to the pandemic in 2020, and by early 2021, most sites were operating in a similar manner to earlier years.
  • 2020 class performance on some outcome measures was similar to that of earlier cohorts, but some opportunities were disrupted by the pandemic.
  • Testing changes complicate cross-cohort and cross-site comparisons.
  • Given ChalleNGe's broad focus, fully assessing program success requires multiple measures.
  • Buy-in for the Job ChalleNGe missions is strong, and sites are working to develop key partnerships, but tools to measure success could be strengthened.
  • In some cases, the Job ChalleNGe program schedule does not align well with the schedules of the program's educational partners.
  • Job ChalleNGe sites are developing key partnerships with educational partners, potential employers, and ChalleNGe programs. Some relationships can be further leveraged to help achieve program goals.
  • At this point in its evolution, the Job ChalleNGe program lacks standardized metrics and a common data system.


  • All ChalleNGe sites should adopt the newest version of the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and examine any requirements based on specific TABE scores.
  • The ChalleNGe and Job ChalleNGe programs should adopt long-term measures of graduate success and continue working to develop the data systems necessary to track this success.
  • Job ChalleNGe should work to increase the labor market alignment and flexibility of program offerings.
  • The Job ChalleNGe program should further leverage educational partners' existing activities and services and should continue working to build stronger relationships with potential employers.
  • In states with ChalleNGe and Job ChalleNGe programs, the programs should work to increase cooperation, coordination, and information-sharing.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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