A Boarding School for Disadvantaged Students

Last registered on August 13, 2014


Trial Information

General Information

A Boarding School for Disadvantaged Students
Initial registration date
August 13, 2014

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
August 13, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
August 13, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


Primary Investigator

J-PAL Europe/PSE

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Warwick
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
The "Boarding Schools Targetnig Excellence" initiative (Internats d’Excellence) aimed to promote equal opportunities in French schools by providing a supportive learning environment to middle and high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the form of a boarding schools. The first pilot boarding school opened in September 2009 at Sourdun (Seine-et-Marne local authority in the school district of Créteil). Researchers from J-PAL carried out a three-year randomized controlled trial, funded by the Fonds d’expérimentation pour la jeunesse (the French Experimental Fund for the Youth), in order to measure the impact of the Sourdun boarding school on students’ aspirations, behavior and academic performance. The results show that an ambitious school policy can have major impacts on educational outcomes for underserved students, but only after the second year, probably because it takes time for most students to adjust to stringent discipline and high academic demands in the school, as evidenced by the evolution of their non-cognitive outcomes (well-being, self-confidence, etc.).
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Behaghel, Luc, Clément Chaisemartin and Marc Gurgand. 2014. "A Boarding School for Disadvantaged Students." AEA RCT Registry. August 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.444-2.0
Former Citation
Behaghel, Luc, Clément Chaisemartin and Marc Gurgand. 2014. "A Boarding School for Disadvantaged Students." AEA RCT Registry. August 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/444/history/2442
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


The project analyzed whether boarding schools with concentrated educational resources, stringent discipline and high academic demand, could improve learning outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in France. Students at the Sourdun boarding school faced very different schooling conditions than their counterparts who attended standard public schools. Pupil-teacher ratios was lower, with 8.2 teachers for every 100 students in public schools, compared to 11.2 at Sourdun. The teachers (on average younger and more educated) were able to develop a more specific and tailored teaching approach. Additionally, because Sourdun was a boarding school and students lived and studied on the school grounds, attendees dedicated significantly more time to academic activities and had a more controlled life. As they are recruited among the well performing students in their own school of origin, the selected students also face better performing peers in the boarding school.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Standardized test scores in French and Mathematics.
Students’ aspirations, motivation and self-esteem; various measures of their well-being and life schedule.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
In the spring of 2009 and 2010, interested students were asked to fill out an application for acceptance at the Sourdun boarding school. In order to be eligible to attend, students had to be both academically qualified and come from a disadvantaged background. Among 774 applications over the two years, a committee discarded those who didn't fall within the target. From the pool of remaining students (485), 258 were randomly selected to attend Sourdun (treatment group), while the remaining 137 served as a comparison group. Randomization was implemented within grade x gender strata. Students in the treatment and comparison groups were systematically followed over two academic years in Sourdun and 169 other schools.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done at the office using a computer software.
Randomization Unit
Individual (student)
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
395 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
395 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
258 students in the treatment group and 137 students in the control group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
25% of a standard deviation of student test scores

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Paris School of Economics (comité d'éthique)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
July 06, 2012, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
February 01, 2013, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
395 Students
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
395 Students
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
258 treatment, 137 control
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Students who were randomly selected to attend the Sourdun Boarding School of Excellence saw significant increases in their aspirations and goals, as well as attendance and academic performance. Only 35.8 percent of Sourdun student reported having missed class in the last 15 days, compared to 51.6 percent in the comparison group. While in class, treatment group students also reported reducing the amount of time they spent not paying attention in class and had better relationships with their teachers than students who were attending public schools. Teachers were 27 percentage points more likely to express interest in the well-being of their students and 26 percentage points more likely to provide supplementary help, if necessary.

Students who attended Sourdun also had higher aspirations, and expressed greater interest in pursuing their higher education. They were nearly three times as likely to express interest in taking college-preparatory classes, and 25 percent more likely to say they wanted to attain a master’s degree. These changes were not immediate—students appeared to lose confidence in their abilities during their first year in residence at Sourdun, perhaps because they were exposed to a higher-performing peer group or were asked to do more difficult work. However, their confidence rebounded in the second year.

Mirroring the trend in students’ confidence in their work, after the first year at Sourdun there was no significant difference in French or math scores between the treatment and comparison groups, though math scores of students at Sourdun did improve after the second year. After two years, students’ average math score increased by 0.4 standard deviations, a substantial amount relative to other education interventions. There was still no effect on French scores, but this pattern of improvements in math but not language scores is common among education programs. These results were the same across girls and boys, middle- and high-school ages, and stronger and weaker students. Effects of attending Sourdun did not appear to spill over onto siblings or former classmates who were still attending public schools.
"Les effets de l'internat d'excellence de Sourdun sur les élèves bénéficiaires: résultats d'une expérience contrôlée", Luc Behaghel, Clément de Chaisemartin, Axelle Charpentier, Marc Gurgand, Rapport pour le Fonds d'expérimenation pour la jeunesse, 11 avril 2013.

Reports & Other Materials