Programs that Work
Quantum Opportunity Program (QOP)
Healthy and Safe Children
Children Succeeding in School
Students graduating from high school
Youths abstaining from sexual activity or not engaging in risky sexual behavior
Age of Child
Type of Setting
Community-Based Service Provider
Type of Service
Type of Outcome Addressed
Cognitive Development / School Performance
Teen Sex / Pregnancy
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
Proven / Promising
Developed by Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America, Inc. (OIC), the Quantum Opportunity Program (QOP) is a youth development program for socio-economically disadvantaged youth. Using a comprehensive case management approach, the program provides year-round services to youth throughout the four years of high school.
The program's main goal is to improve academic deficiencies among high school aged youth with low grades at risk of dropping out of school. A secondary emphasis is to establish meaningful, long-term relationships between the student participants, who are called "associates," and program coordinators. Finally, the program encourages involvement and commitment to school and community. Associates engage in 250 hours of activity in each of three areas every year: education, community service and development activities meant to reduce risky behavior, promote cultural awareness and/or promote recreation. Associates are provided financial incentives, through stipends and bonuses, for participating in QOP activities.
Youth with low grades entering high schools with high drop-out rates.
In the early 1990's, Hahn, Leavitt, and Aaron (1994) analyzed survey data from students at four of five planned study sites: Saginaw, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. The program enrolled 25 students at each site. All the students chosen were entering the ninth grade and living in a family that was receiving welfare payments.
At each demonstration program site, 50 students entering the ninth grade in 1989 were randomly chosen from lists of families receiving public assistance. Half of the students were then assigned to the program and recruited by the QOP directors. Directors were instructed to how many of the 25 youth assigned to the program could be persuaded to join and were not allowed to select additional youth if the original 25 did not join. Between 21 and 25 initial surveys were collected from each experimental group at the four sites. The remaining students became the control group. A questionnaire collected information on demographics, work experience, school experience, health knowledge, personal attitudes, and opinions. In addition, academic levels (vocabulary, reading comprehension, computation, concepts, mechanics, and expression) and functional skill levels (in knowledge of occupations, consumer economics, government, health, and knowledge of community resources) were assessed using the Test of Adult Basic Education and the Comprehensive Competencies Program (CCP) Tier Mastery Test, respectively. The tests were repeated in 1990, 1991, and in spring of 1993, as was distribution of the questionnaires. A follow-up study (Hahn, et al., 1994) of the original program is based on a questionnaire administered in late fall 1993, several months after participants' anticipated high school graduation dates.
In the early 2000's, Schirm, et al (2003, 2004, 2005) conducted another study of QOP. For this study, the program enrolled 580 9th grade students across seven sites around the country: Cleveland, Fort Worth, Houston, Philadelphia, Memphis, Washington, D.C. and Yakima, Washington. Students were randomly selected for treatment from a group of 1,069 eligible youth. Students were eligible if they were starting 9th grade for the first time at a participating school at the start of the demonstration project and had an 8th grade GPA below the 67th percentile of their peer group. Some students with severe physical or learning disabilities were excluded from eligibility. Fifty-three percent of students enrolled in QOP were 14 years old at the start of the demonstration, 52 percent were male, 26 percent were Hispanic and 68 percent were African American.
Out of 2,550 students meeting the eligibility criteria, 1,200 were randomly selected and contacted for study participation. The study was unable to locate some randomly selected students, but students who were located were recruited aggressively. Ninety-eight percent (1,069 students) of all located students agreed to participate. Of these, 580 were randomly assigned for enrollment in the QOP and 489 were assigned to a control group. Data were collected at four intervals: twice during the program and twice after the program ended. All available students in the study were contacted for in-person surveys during the spring of the fourth academic year of the program and were asked to take achievement tests in reading and mathematics. Achievement tests were developed through the National Education Longitudinal study and were scored by the Educational Testing Service.
Schirm, et al (2004) and Schirm, et al (2006) collected follow-up data from the study participants. During the fifth academic year of the program, students were surveyed over the telephone and portions of students' school records were reviewed. Students were interviewed again by telephone two and four years after the program ended. Students at the Washington, D.C. site entered the program one year after students at the other sites, so some data collection for these students was delayed by a year.
Key Evaluation Findings
Schirm et al. (2003) found significant differences between QOP and control students in the program's two primary objectives: high school graduation and postsecondary training enrollment. By the fifth year after students started 9th grade:
- Students enrolled in QOP were significantly more likely (46 percent) to graduate high school with a diploma than students in the control group (40 percent).
- Students enrolled in QOP were significantly more likely (32 percent) to attend postsecondary training or education after high school than students in the control group (26 percent).
In an earlier evaluation, Hahn et al. (1994) found that, compared with the control group,
- There were no significant program effects after only one year.
- By the end of the program in 1993, average associate group scores were significantly higher in all 11 areas.
- Associates were significantly more likely to graduate from high school (of 84 total graduates, 52 were QOP students and 32 were control students).
- Associates were significantly more likely to be in postsecondary school (of 46 students in postsecondary school, 34 were QOP students and 12 were control students).
- Associates were significantly less likely to be high school dropouts (of 57 total dropouts, 19 were QOP students and 38 were control students).
- Associates were less likely to have children at the time of follow-up (of 49 students with children, 20 were QOP students and 29 were control students).
Nonprofit community-based organizations, secondary schools, and youth development professionals
The U.S. Department of Labor funded the program for five sites: Cleveland, Fort Worth, Houston, Memphis, and Washington, D.C. The Ford Foundation provided funding for the other two: Philadelphia and Yakima, Washington.
- The program operates year-round and combines features of case management, mentoring, computer-assisted instruction, work experience, and financial incentives.
- The QOP program has three major components: 250 hours each year spent on education activities, community service and development activities meant to reduce risky behavior, promote cultural awareness and/or promote recreation.
- The activities are individually tailored using a case management approach, adjusting for short-term and long-term goals and advancement.
- The QOP motto is "Once in QOP, Always in QOP." Associates are never dropped from the program and may return at any point during the four years. Similarly, one of the program's goals is to have the same Coordinator stay with the group for four years.
- The program provides financial incentives to students for participating in the program. Associates receive a stipend for each hour spent on QOP activities, and a bonus of $100 after completing 100 hours of education, development, or service activities in a given year (for up to $300 total). The stipends and bonuses are placed in an interest bearing Quantum Opportunity Account and held for approved use, such as college or job training.
The Comprehensive Competencies Program was developed by Robert Taggart at the Remediation and Training Institute. The program consists of 96 courses, 48 academic and 48 functional, covering such topics as employment, health, and consumer economics. Each course consists of individually paced book lessons supplemented with audiocassettes, videos, and other multimedia CD materials. The educational activities take place in a computer-based learning lab located near the Associates' school. Location can be a factor in participation as transportation may be difficult for many of the Associates.
Each site Coordinator is responsible for multiple duties. As a program manager, the Coordinator is responsible for budget and resource management, coordinating the program with schools and community agencies, and planning activities. As a case manager, the Coordinator develops an annual contract with each Associate, keeps monthly progress reports, arranges service activities, and works with Associates on a weekly basis. At larger sites, the case management tasks may be divided among individual counselors, while the Coordinator concentrates on the program management aspects.
Issues to Consider
Maxfield et al. (2003b) found that the QOP model may be difficult or impractical to replicate exactly as intended. The sites that were evaluated in this program implemented programs that were moderately to substantially different from the original QOP model. None of the sites fully incorporated the academic assistance component of the program. Sites faced limitations to the number of hours that staff could be available to enrollees and, on average, enrollees spent only 177 hours on program activities per year. This is 23 percent of the target goal of 750 hours per year. Of the 177 average hours spent participating in program activities, 76 were spent on educational activities, 77 on development activities and 24 on community service-related activities. In the first year of the program, nearly all (99 percent) of participants spent some time on program activities, but in the fourth year, about 26 percent of participants spent no time on program activities.
While Schirm et al.'s (2003) study found that treatment students were significantly more likely (32 percent) than control students (26 percent) to enroll in postsecondary education after four years, the follow-up study (Schirm, et al., 2006) found that control students' high school completion and postsecondary enrollment rates were not significantly different from associates by the time most students reached 23-25 years of age. This suggests that, on average, QOP students started postsecondary training earlier than students in the comparison group. Earlier enrollment in postsecondary training could mean that QOP students obtain higher wage employment earlier than comparison group students. If this is true, students enrolled in the QOP likely experienced long-term financial benefits due to finishing high school and starting postsecondary training sooner than they would have without the program. The program did not show any impact on students' likelihood of completing their postsecondary training program.
The most recent demonstration project took place in Cleveland, Fort Worth, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Yakima, Washington. The pilot demonstration was implemented in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, and Saginaw, Michigan.
C. Benjamin Lattimore
Director, Office of National Literacy Programs
Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America, Inc.
1415 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
There are several summaries of QOP, including:
American Youth Policy Forum, Forum Brief: Promoting Youth Development in Urban Communities--Unprecedented Success for the Quantum Opportunities Program, 1994. http://www.aypf.org/forumbriefs/1994/fb102894.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "A National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancies--Appendix III: Promising Strategies," no date. http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/teenp/examples.htm
Creating and Evaluating Successful Teen Pregnancy Programs, Accord, N.Y.: Philliber Research Associates, 1998.
Hahn, A., Leavitt, Tom and Aaron, Paul,
Evaluation of the Quantum Opportunities Program: Did the program work? A Report on the Post Secondary Outcomes and Cost-Effectiveness of the QOP Program (1989-1993),
Heller Graduate School, Center for Human Resources, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., June 1994.
Hahn, Andrew, "Extending the Time of Learning," in Douglas J. Besharov, ed., America's Disconnected Youth, Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America, Inc., 1999.
Lattimore, C. Benjamin, The Quantum Opportunities Program, Blueprints for Violence Prevention Series, Book 4, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, 1998.
Maxfield, Myles, Laura Castner, Vida Maralani, and Mary Bencill, The Quantum Opportunity Program Demonstration: Implementation Findings, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 2003.
Schirm, Allen, Elizabeth Stuart, and Allison McKie, The Quantum Opportunity Program Demonstration: Final Impacts, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 2006.
Schirm, Allen, Nuria Rodriguez-Planas, The Quantum Opportunity Program Demonstration: Initial Post-Intervention Impacts, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 2004.
Schirm, Allen, Nuria Rodriguez-Planas, Myles Maxfield, and Christina Tuttle, The Quantum Opportunity Program Demonstration: Short-Term Impacts, Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., 2003.