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Study Overview

Early Warning Systems for dropout prevention: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial in Guatemala
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School dropout is a growing concern in both developed and developing countries because of its negative social and economic consequences. This study examines whether a policy intervention that provides principals and teachers with a training and a brief guiding manual, flags at-risk students, and offers reminders and social recognition to school principals is effective to reduce school dropout in the transition from primary to secondary education and improve other educational outcomes in Guatemala. To that end, 4000 public primary schools in that country are randomly assigned to: (a) a control group (with no intervention), (b) a treatment group receiving a training and a brief guiding manual; (c) a treatment group receiving the same as group (b) plus a list of at-risk students; (d) a treatment group receiving the same as group (c) plus reminders and social recognition to school principals that were successful in reducing dropout.

Registration Citation:

Vazquez, E. and Haimovich, F., 2019. Nudging children toward healthier food choices: An experiment combining school and home gardens. Registry for International Development for Impact Evaluations (RIDIE). Available at: 10.23846/ridie173

Additional Keywords:
Early warning system, school dropout, Guatemala
Secondary ID Number(s):

Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Emmanuel Vazquez
CEDLAS - Facultad de Ciencias Económicas - Universidad Nacional de La Plata
Name of Second PI:
Francisco Haimovich
World Bank

Study Sponsor

World Bank
Study Sponsor Location:
United States

Intervention Overview


We administered: 1) A brief manual and a half-day training providing general guidance on strategies to prevent dropout. This component included suggestions for simple actions based on best international practices and a list of existing resources within the Ministry of Education to help with dropout. 2) A list of at-risk students in each school. By applying linear regressions and basic prediction concepts to routinely collected administrative data, a prediction model identified the students in the 6th grade that were at high risk of dropping out in the transition to 7th grade and this list was provided to schools. 3) Reminders and social recognition. Periodic reminders were sent to school principals to remind them the importance of dropout prevention. In addition, the Ministry of education informed that it will formally recognize and publicize the top performing schools/principals in terms of reductions in dropout rates. The main objective of the intervention is to reduce dropout rates in the transition from 6th to 7th grade, benefiting 6th grade students who would otherwise leave school.

Theory of Change:

As mentioned above, the intervention comprises the following elements/activities: (a) A manual and a half-day training providing general guidance on strategies to prevent dropout. (b) A list of students at-risk of dropout (based on prediction models) (c) Reminders and social recognition to the top performing schools/principals in terms of reductions in dropout rates. Mechanisms through which interventions would work: (1) Imperfect information: i. On who’s at risk: school managers may not have accurate predictions of which students are most likely to drop out and therefore do not effectively allocate efforts and resources across students, or may have trouble monitoring their enrollment in the transition from primary to lower secondary. The list of at-risk students (component b) is aimed at filling this gap. ii. On what to do: school directors are just teachers (lack of specific training). Basic guidance on how to help students could make a difference. The manual and half-day training (component a) was designed to address this issue. (2) Salience and prioritization: knowing that reducing dropout is a priority of government and that the government considers it the responsibility of school directors to act could spark them into taking action. Goal-setting and reminders can make this actionable and keep this top-of-mind. The reminders (in component c) could help to tackle this problem. (3) Social recognition: positive, low-powered incentives such as those provided through component c may spur directors to act, at low-cost to the system.

Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
World Bank

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
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Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
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Other (not Listed) Method:

Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

We will compare average dropout rates and other educational outcomes of students in the schools who are in the different treatment arms with the outcomes in the control group to estimate the impact of the intervention. Moreover, we will compare the average outcomes of the different treatment arms in order to understand the mechanisms that are behind the general results.

Outcomes (Endpoints):

1) Final outcomes: 1.1) Primary (short-term): Drop-out rate in the transition from 6th grade to secondary education, Retention rate at 6th grade, Grades in language, math, and the rest of subjects; 1.2) Primary (medium term): Rate of transition to upper secondary and tertiary education, Survival rates in the educational system, School life expectancy, Over-age at school; 1.3) Secondary (short-term): School choice (modality, quality, distance, peers, type of administration (public-private)), Self-reported reason for drop-out. 2) Intermediate outcomes (Very short-term - principal's reaction to the intervention): Degree of focalization of support on students who need more help, Perception of drop-out rates in the transition from primary to secondary, Perception of the returns to education, Tasks that are prioritized by school principals, Perception of the principal's influence on the dropout decision, Perception of the main influence on the dropout decision, Degree of importance given to the completion of secondary education, Principal's perception about students' belief on the usefulness of their education,Degree of knowledge of students' families and frequency of meetings with them

Unit of Analysis:

The main hypotheses that the study plans to test with the outcome variables specified above is that flagging at-risk students to school leaders, providing basic guidance for them and addressing behavioral bottlenecks help to prevent dropout and improve other educational outcomes. The implicit hypotheses underlying the research questions are that key actors may not be able to accurately identify the students at highest risk of dropping out; that they make lack knowledge on how to prevent dropout even if they know who is at risk; and that behavioral factors, such as focusing on other, more immediate issues may push dropout down the list of priorities for school actors to address, even if they have the information and knowledge. Moreover, the intervention focuses on school directors, as leaders with the reach and authority to guide teacher behaviors, change school practices, and so on.

Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Number of Clusters in Sample:
4,000 schools
Number of Individuals in Sample:
77,208 students
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
Control: 1000 schools; Treatment arm 1: 1000 schools; Treatment arm 2: 1000 schools; Treatment arm 3: 1000 schools

Outcomes Data

1) Administrative data of enrollment and student records of every student in the educational system in Guatemala provided by school principals to the Ministry of Education. 2) Follow-up surveys filled by school principals in the experimental group.
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Treatment Assignment Data

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Data Analysis

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Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 1: Data for measuring impacts have not been collected

Completion Overview

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Preliminary Report:
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Data Availability

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Other Materials

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Description of Changes:

Study Stopped