Absence of conflict of interest.
The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Back on Track framework on earning a high school credential and being disconnected from both work and school (that is, neither working nor enrolled in school). The authors investigated similar research questions for three other contrasts, the profiles of which can be found here:
Using propensity score matching, the study compared outcomes for students who participated in the Opportunity Works Hartford program to those of youth from other “business-as-usual” programs. The study tested for differences in outcome means between the treatment group and matched comparison group. The primary data sources were a baseline survey and a follow-up survey conducted 12 to 17 months later.
The study suggested that Opportunity Works participants in Hartford were significantly less likely to be disconnected from both work and school than comparison group members.
The causal evidence rating for this study is low. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Back on Track framework; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Back on Track
Features of the Intervention
The Back on Track framework aims to improve outcomes for “opportunity youth,” young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school or meaningfully employed. Back on Track provides a framework that Opportunity Works sites could adapt to focus their activities and service delivery on helping young people find education and employment success.
The Back on Track framework has three program phases. The Hartford Opportunity Works site focused on the second phase, postsecondary/career bridging, which helps youth who have obtained a high school credential or are very close to doing so, prepare for college courses and career-oriented professional training. Almost all the Hartford participants had a high school credential, so the program focused on helping them access higher education, career training, and/or obtain employment.
Features of the Study
Using propensity score matching, the study compared outcomes for students who participated in the Opportunity Works program to those of youth from other “business-as-usual” programs that aimed to help underemployed, out-of-school youth of the same ages. The intervention group for this analysis is 73 Hartford participants who responded to the follow-up survey. The matched comparison group includes individuals from any of the three sites involved in the broader study (Hartford, Philadelphia, and Seattle/South King County). The sample size for the matched comparison group is unclear. Two-thirds of the Hartford participants were young men of color. 69% of the sample identified as non-Hispanic Black and the remainder as Hispanic/Latinx. Almost all (93%) had a high school credential.
- The study suggested that Hartford intervention group members were 20 percentage points less likely to be disconnected from both work and school than comparison group members, a significant difference.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors did not demonstrate that the Hartford intervention group was equivalent to its matched comparison group before the intervention. Pre-existing differences between the groups, and not the Back on Track framework, could be one factor explaining the observed difference in outcomes between the groups.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not demonstrate that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Back on Track framework; other factors are likely to have contributed.