What Can Be Done to Improve Struggling High Schools?

Abstract at AEA:

In spite of decades of well-intentioned efforts targeted at struggling high schools, outcomes today are little improved. A handful of innovative programs have achieved great success on a small scale, but more generally, the economic futures of the students at the bottom of the human capital distribution remain dismal. In our view, expanding access to educational options that focus on life skills and work experience, as opposed to a focus on traditional definitions of academic success, represents the most cost-effective, broadly implementable source of improvements for this group.

This US-centric paper is very readable, by credible authors. The paper is more forthcoming than the cautiously-worded abstract. In particular, one of the most useful findings is that many students would be far better off on a vocational rather than college track. Apprenticeships are not mentioned specifically, but are proven to be a very effective way to realize the goals for “life skills and work experience”.