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Promoting cognitive and soft skills acquisition in a disadvantaged public school system: Evidence from the Nurture thru Nature randomized experiment

Radha Jagannathan, Michael J. Camasso, Maia Delacalle


It is widely acknowledged that our public schools have failed to produce sufficient levels of high quality STEM education. The mathematics and science performance of minority and disadvantaged students has been especially troubling with blacks and Hispanics substantially underrepresented in the STEM labor market. In this paper we examine the impacts of a STEM enhancement program called Nurture thru Nature (NtN) on the cognitive (academic grades) and soft skills development of 139 elementary school students who attended the program over an eight year period (2010–2017). Utilizing a randomized experimental design or RCT with a control group of 491 elementary school students, we find that NtN slows the deterioration in students’ math and science grades relative to controls and improves soft skills such as conscientiousness, higher order thinking, empathy, and pro-social behavior.
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