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.