Evaluating the Academic and Behavioral Impact of “School in the Park”

Journal Article by Professor Gary Painter

Neighborhood Data for Social Change   (Los Angeles)

Closing the achievement gap between students in low income schools and those in high income school districts continues to challenge policy makers. Interventions have ranged from universal preschool, full day kindergarten, after school enrichment programs, class size reduction, charter schools, among others. While there is no “silver bullet” invention, there have been programs in various areas that have shown some successes. Currently, there exists some evidence that arts enrichment programs that are high quality have increased the educational attainment of students in these programs. However, these studies suffer from methodological flaws that hamper the generalizability of the results.

The proposed research will evaluate the academic achievement and behaviors of students that are in the School in the Park program (http://schoolinthepark.net/) that serves the Rosa Parks and Alexander Hamilton elementary schools. It is expected that this research will overcome some of the methodological limitations of past studies due to the use of longitudinal data from San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). This research will use a difference in differences framework that will take advantage of the fact that this policy was implemented in the two schools at different times. The rich data from SDUSD will allow us to develop better control groups than past studies and will further allow us to measure short term as well as long term outcomes like graduating from high school.