Confronting the Challenges of Student Engagement

A Case Study of a School-Based Intervention

by Hilary J. Rhodes

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While policymakers can insist that every child attends school, they cannot legislate the positive attitude, motivation, and behaviors that are integral to students’ learning. This dissertation follows the Valued Youth Program, a cross-age tutoring program, from its conception through its adoption in the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, which is facing marked achievement differentials across ethnic groups. The author evaluates the program’s effectiveness in influencing intermediate student engagement outcomes, including attendance, school attitudes, disciplinary issues, and achievement (e.g., grades, standardized test scores) over the course of one year. Each step of the implementation is examined with a critical eye to how the process and the actors, both internal and external to the school system, facilitate or impede the program’s final form and its ability to affect student engagement. The analysis concludes with lessons learned that provide guidance for educators and community members to implement and sustain student engagement programs.

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in March 2007 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Mark Spranca (Chair), Gery Ryan, and Brian Stecher.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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