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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Program Description

Overview In an attempt to address the economic and educational needs of disadvantaged youth, the Governor's Office, through the Louisiana State Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) Offices of the East Baton Rouge parish, the Jefferson parish, and the Terrebonne consortium, funded the planning and implementation of the Louisiana State Youth Opportunities Unlimited (LSYOU) program on the Louisiana State University campus in the summer of 1986. LSYOU is a dropout prevention program for at-risk youth. The program has a six to eight week summer residential component and a school-year component. This evaluation focuses on the summer component during the first year of operation.
Start Date Summer 1986
Scope state
Type weekend activities, summer/vacation, comprehensive services
Location urban
Setting university campus
Participants high school students ages 14–16
Number of Sites/Grantees one (Louisiana State University campus)
Number Served 105 (1986)
Components The participants for the 1986 program were 105 economically disadvantaged youth (ages 14–16) selected from the East Baton Rouge parish, the Jefferson parish, and the Terrebonne consortium—35 from each. The students were identified by their school counselors as potential dropouts, economically disadvantaged, and considered “at-risk” in terms of not completing high school. The students met JTPA eligibility criteria, including income level, school grades, previous failures, poor test scores, and family and personal problems.

LSYOU participants were immersed in a “24 hours per day, seven days per week” eight-week intensive living experience on the Louisiana State University campus. Participants lived in a college dorm and took meals in a college cafeteria. Each student had a support team consisting of teachers and counselors who met weekly regarding the student's progress and to make recommendations for program improvement. Students were required to open a savings account into which a designated amount was deposited each pay period. A study skills component and health care services were also included.

On a half-day basis, the students received academic instruction in math and reading, both in the classroom and in computer labs. Successful completion of reading and math coursework earned each student one unit of high school credit. The remaining time (four hours per day) was spent at work sites throughout the university. Participants earned minimum wage for work hours. Evening hours were devoted to elective recreational activities and to career counseling. Through career counseling, students were provided with information on post-secondary possibilities and educational requirements for various professions. Weekend activities included field trips, speakers, tutoring sessions, and parent participation activities. Parents were encouraged to correspond with and visit children as often as possible. Transportation was provided for parents to attend one planned parent weekend and closing ceremonies.
Funding Level $300,000 (summer program 1986)
Funding Sources Office of the Governor through the Louisiana Department of Labor, Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) Offices of the East Baton Rouge parish, the Jefferson parish, and the Terrebonne consortium
Other The Job Training Partnership Act is now called the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). However, at the time of the evaluation of LSYOU, it was still JTPA.


Overview The evaluation assessed the program's success in achieving the following goals: (1) students increase their desire to stay in school, (2) students increase their basic academic skills, and (3) students acquire and demonstrate competencies in planning and preparing for careers that relate to their occupational goals, aptitudes, and interests.
Evaluators Jonathan Z. Shapiro, Suzan N. Gaston, Janet C. Hebert, and Dewey J. Guillot of the Louisiana State University College of Education, Administrative and Foundational Services

Evaluations Profiled

The LSYOU Project Evaluation (1986)
Evaluations Planned Data are collected as required by the Workforce Investment Act.
Report Availability Shapiro, J. Z., Gaston, S. N., Hebert, J. C., & Guillot, D. J. (1986, November). The LSYOU project evaluation. Baton Rouge, LA: College of Education Administrative and Foundational Services, Louisiana State University.


Evaluation Suzan Gaston, Ph.D.
LSYOU Program
Louisiana State University
118 William Hatcher Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Tel: 225-578-1751 or 800-256-1751
Fax: 225-578-4994
Program Suzan Gaston, Ph.D.
LSYOU Program
Louisiana State University
118 William Hatcher Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Tel: 225-578-1751 or 800-256-1751
Fax: 225-578-4994
Profile Updated September 24, 2002

Evaluation: The LYSOU Project Evaluation

Evaluation Description

Evaluation Purpose To examine gains made by program students in academic achievement, career maturity, intention to remain in school during the current year, and intention to graduate.
Evaluation Design Experimental: Data were collected on randomly assigned LSYOU (treatment) and Summer Youth Employment (control) groups. The treatment group and control group each consisted of 105 participants who were randomly selected from the pool of children who applied for and were eligible for the JPTA program. Each JTPA eligible student who applied to the program had an equal chance of being placed in the program or comparison group. Those chosen for the treatment group were asked to participate in the LSYOU program; if the youth (or their parents) objected, another student was selected from those who were eligible.
Data Collection Methods Document Review: Students in the program were asked to nominate their boss as the “Boss of the Summer” in a letter. This information provided insight into the quality of the students' work experience and into what aspects of the work experience were most successful in helping students to develop a positive work ethic. Sixty-two students nominated their supervisor as the “Boss of the Summer.” Individual student nomination letters were reviewed.

One month after the students returned home from the LSYOU program, they were sent a letter by the LSYOU staff asking how they were doing at school, at home, and in life in general, and whether they would like to go back to visit LSYOU. Letter responses were received from 67 students and were reviewed for similar statements and thoughts.

Surveys/Questionnaires: Responses to the worksite evaluation were received from 98 employers of LSYOU students. Employers answered open-ended questions regarding their participation in the LSYOU project. They also rated students on a nine-item employability scale, including following directions, completing assigned tasks, attitude, communication skills, personal appearance, punctuality, relationship with other employees, gaining new skills, and maturity for tasks assigned. Employers responded to these issues on a rating scale of excellent, good, fair, and poor.

Students completed a school/program survey consisting of eight open-ended questions regarding their participation in the LSYOU project. Responses from 97 students were received. In addition, intentions were measured by students' responses, ranging from extremely unlikely to extremely likely on a seven-point scale, to questions of their intention to remain in school for the current year and their intention to remain in school until they graduate.

Tests/Assessments: Reading and math achievements were measured by three subtests of the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, a nationally normed test. Data were collected pretest (before the program began) and posttest (after the program ended), on the reading comprehension subtest, the mathematics computation subtest, and the mathematics concepts and applications subtest.

The career decision making subscales of the Career Maturity Inventory (decisiveness, involvement, independence, orientation, and compromise) measured career maturity.
Data Collection Timeframe Data were collected during the summer of 1986, unless otherwise indicated.

Formative/Process Findings

Activity Implementation Ninety-seven percent of the students said that the LSYOU school was different than the school they attended the previous year. Characteristics that students felt the LSYOU program provided compared to their regular school included: fewer teachers in classrooms, higher levels of teacher caring for and understanding of students, more emphasis on development of student responsibility, the presence of computer classes, and more emphasis on completing school that made students want to stay in school.

According to employers, approaches they took in working with students included providing students with the following: patience/time, as much responsibility as students could handle, challenging work, honest/direct communication, concern/friendliness, considerable supervision, and positive reinforcement.
Recruitment/Participation Of the 105 students who began in the program, five dropped out, three were replaced during the first two weeks, and 103 completed the program.
Satisfaction Ninety-eight percent of the students said that if they had the opportunity, they would go back to the program the following year.

Ninety-nine percent of students believed that the program would be a good one for other students to attend the following year.

Many students felt that classes should be shorter.

Most of the students felt that the electives should be kept the same, although many suggested that they needed more electives to choose from, and a small number of students suggested that electives should be cut.

Most of the students were happy with the career planning services; many indicated that the services helped them to select courses for their careers and provided knowledge about how to get another job. Many students suggested that the career counseling services needed to have more variety.

Students seemed to be satisfied with dorm life and the dorm counselors. The one major criticism that students had was that they needed more sleep.

Many students had suggestions for how weekends at the program could be improved, including a desire for more independent time, planned activities, and visits home.

Many students had suggestions for improving the work component, including allowing students to choose where they want to work and providing more work to keep them busy.

Other suggestions from students for improvements to the program included: night classes should be held earlier in the day and field trips should be more frequent.

Employers suggested improvements to the LSYOU program in the following areas: more visits from counselors, shorter days because children get tired, better program organization, and better coordination of the LSYOU schedule with employer work schedules. Employers also suggested the need to implement the following components to improve the program: time for students and supervisors to socialize outside of work, job behavior training for students prior to jobsite assignments, supervisor orientation, and supervisor interviews with students.

Most of the employers indicated that they would like to have LSYOU students work for them again next summer. Some employers provided stipulations for future student employment, including that they would want only one student in each shift and that they be able to interview the student prior to hiring. Some employers preferred to have the same student work for them again the following summer. Of the small number of employers who did not want students working for them again, their reasons for not wanting student workers included their belief that students were good for errands only, and/or that their department was too technical for student workers.

Summative/Outcome Findings

Academic Student reading comprehension scores fell back from pretest to posttest for both treatment and control group members. However, the control group scores fell back to a statistically significant greater extent than the treatment group's scores (p<.04).

Student mathematics computation scores advanced from pretest to posttest for the treatment group while the control group scores fell back from pretest to posttest. The resulting difference has a high degree of statistical significance (p< .00).

Student mathematics concepts and applications scores advanced for the treatment group from pretest to posttest while the control group's scores fell back. The resulting difference has a high degree of statistical significance (p< .00).

The data indicate that the control group evidenced no significant change in intention to remain in school for the current school year (p< .35) or to graduate (p< .85) from pretest to posttest. The LSYOU group data indicate significant increases in both intention to remain in school for the current school year (p< .01) and for graduating (p< .01).

Ninety-five percent of the students who enrolled for the math elective credit passed.

Ninety-eight percent of the students who enrolled for the reading elective credit passed.

Ninety-one percent of the students who enrolled for math promotion to the ninth grade passed.

Ninety-three percent of the students who enrolled for reading promotion to the ninth grade passed.

Of the 103 students who completed the program, all but one had remained in school three-and-half months after the program's completion.

Most students felt that what they learned in the LSYOU program would help them at school. Students said that they would be ahead of other students, had learned new study skills, and knew what courses to take in school to prepare for a job.
Workforce Development The career decision making data indicate a statistically significant program impact on participants on four of the five subscales: decisiveness, involvement, orientation, and compromise (p<.00 for each). There was no statistical significance for changes to the independence scale from pretest to posttest (p< .24).

The following themes emerged in student letters nominating their boss for “Boss of the Summer”: students learned from their bosses on the job (40%), students developed personal relationships with their bosses (39%), students recognized the patience and understanding displayed by the supervisors, particularly when the students made mistakes (35%), bosses helped students to develop a strong work ethic (32%), and students appreciated the faith, encouragement, and advice given by the supervisor (19%).

In ratings of student employability skills by employers, students were rated highest (on a scale of 1-4, where 1 = “excellent” and 4 = “poor”) on punctuality (1.67), attitude (1.76), and relationships with other employees (1.74). The employability scales rated the lowest were communication skills (2.10) and maturity for tasks assigned (2.09).

Most of the employers thought that their student employees gained a better appreciation for work through their work experience. Employers commented that students' confidence was greatly increased and students learned the importance of getting a job done, the value of money, and how to work with others. A very small percentage of employers noted that students had an attitude problem.

Most of the employers identified new skills the students assigned to them had learned on the job. Skills cited included: telephone and/or communication skills, office work/typing/filing/copying skills, computer/word processor proficiencies, laboratory equipment skills, greenhouse techniques, public relations skills, errand-running skills, library skills, media equipment abilities, costuming/hand sewing skills, science research skills, and job accuracy skills.
Youth Development Of the students who answered the question of whether the LSYOU program was worthwhile (6% did not answer), all felt the program was worthwhile. Students indicated that the program: taught them independence, respect for others, and problem coping skills; provided them job experience/skills, school credit, a college student experience, and a source of income; and kept them out of trouble.

The majority of students thought that what they learned in the LSYOU program would help them overall when they left LSYOU.

Most of the students felt that the things taught in the LSYOU program would help them at home. Students indicated that they learned new study skills, how to budget money, how to share their feelings, and how to better communicate with their families. Some students said that their experience in the program increased their self-confidence.

Most of the students felt that the LSYOU program would help in other areas of their lives besides home and school. Students reported that their experience in the program: taught them how to “make it on my own” and how to be a better person; provided information about college, applying for a job, and choosing a career; and improved their ability to get along with others.

Most employers involved in the LSYOU program felt that the program was worthwhile, although some thought that the work component was too complex for students. Employers said the program was worthwhile in exposing students to higher education and a mature work environment and in helping students gain confidence in themselves and their work abilities.

The following themes emerged in the program-solicited letters received from students after the program's completion: missing the LSYOU program and wanting to return (75%), explaining how LSYOU helped them at school (40%), appreciating what LSYOU did for them (39%), reflecting on home life (36%), distinguishing between the LSYOU school and regular school (36%), asking for assistance from LSYOU staff (24%), reflecting on living on a college campus (9%), emphasizing personal relationships with LSYOU staff and participants (31%), discussing their new school (25%), appreciating follow-up contact (19%), and recognizing the change in their self-image (16%).

Of the 103 participants who completed the program, all but one (99%) attained Department of Labor's JTPA Youth Competencies, which involved fulfillment of pre-employment/work maturity skills, basic academic skills, and job specific skills. The Youth Competencies consisted of 11 “core competencies” including punctuality, job attendance, resume writing skills, etc. Employers documented their youth employees' progress in these areas in order to assess their competency levels.


© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project