Former Federal Officials Cast Doubt on Study Questioning Value of Upward Bound

As the accused GEAR UP felons appear in Charles Mix County court today, I need to correct and expand on a report I posted last week on the apparent ineffectiveness of GEAR UP and other federal college readiness programs.

KELO’s Angela Kennecke used a 2013 report by Ron Haskins and Cecilia Elena Rouse of the Brookings Institution to jump up and down on the need for reforms to GEAR UP. One of the programs dinged in that report was Upward Bound, a program that has provided services to high school students through Northern, SDSU, and USD.

A South Dakota prof who has participated in Upward Bound stuck up for the program by sending me this June 2014 article by Margaret Cahalan and David Goodwin, former U.S. Department of Education technical monitors for the national Evaluation of Upward Bound. That report contends that the Mathematica study of Upward Bound, on which the Haskins/Rouse 2013 brief and other critiques of Upward Bound have been based, is flawed. Specifically, control group members often got alternative pre-college supplemental services. Thus, saying Upward Bound students didn’t show gains over control group students does not show that Upward Bound did not help students get ready for college. Cahalan and Goodwin contend that this flawed approach justifies rescinding the USDOE research branch’s declaration that the Mathematica study of Upward Bound “meets evidence standards.”

Cahalan and Goodwin do not address any specifics of the conduct of GEAR UP in South Dakota or the failure of our state Department of Education and the Mid-Central Education Cooperative to monitor that money properly. But Cahalan and Goodwin at least remind us that we shouldn’t take the Haskins/Rouse brief and the flawed Mathematica conclusions as final evidence that other public programs to help disadvantaged youth get into college don’t work.

For the record, Mathematica stands by its results.


One Response to Former Federal Officials Cast Doubt on Study Questioning Value of Upward Bound

  1. Roger Cornelius

    With conflicting data on whether Gear Up and Upward Bound programs are successful, it seems that another approach needs to be taken to keep Native American students participating in higher education programs.
    Often times Native Americans students heading off to college are lagging in some subjects that haven’t been emphasized in reservation school systems.
    Wouldn’t Native Americans be better served by turning those federal program dollars into intensive tutoring programs for those students.
    Most Native students will acclimate themselves to college life, but if they fall behind in their studies they will soon give up.