Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Research-Based Design

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was identified as an effective program in Show Me the Evidence! Proven and Promising Programs for America’s Schools, by Dr. Robert E. Slavin and Dr. Olatokunbo S. Fashola. The authors report that the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is one of only two programs designed to increase the high school graduation rates of at-risk students that meet the standards of their review for a strong research base, rigorous evaluation, active dissemination, evidence of effectiveness.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was extensively researched in 1989 using a longitudinal, quasi-experimental design with data collected for the treatment and comparison group students before tutoring began, during implementation, and at the end of the first and second program years.

The setting and sample were four middle school campuses in two public school districts in San Antonio, Texas, having low property wealth and large concentrations of Hispanic and limited-English-proficient students. A total of 101 tutors and 93 comparison group students were selected on two criteria: limited English proficiency and reading below grade level on a standardized achievement test. The tutors and the comparison group students were selected from the same pool of students deemed to be at-risk of dropping out of school. Once the tutoring group had been selected, mainly on the basis of class scheduling and availability, the comparison group was randomly selected from the remaining pool of students who were at risk.

There were no baseline differences between the tutors and comparison group on age, average grade in reading, quality of school life and self-concept scores, ethnicity or retention. This provided the basis for rejecting the rival hypotheses as part of the quasi-experimental design. The only statistical difference between groups was in lunch eligibility where tutors had significantly lower socio-economic status than youth in the comparison group.


“I thought that I wasn’t good because I had many problems. I thought I was a nobody, but when I started talking to my tutees and working with them, I felt different. Now I know that I can be somebody, and I can help others to do the same.”

– middle school tutor


Quantitative and qualitative data were collected on participants. Protocols were specifically designed and used to ensure standardization and methodological rigor in data collection. Pre-test and post-test measures include student grades, disciplinary action referrals, absenteeism, self-concept (as measured by the Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale), and attitudes toward school (as measured Quality of School Life Scale).

The results from this research study showed that the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program had a statistically significant impact on the dropout rate, reading grades, self-concept, and attitudes toward school. Only one tutor out of 101 (1 percent) dropped out of school toward the end of the second year of the program compared to 11 students of the 93 comparison group students (12 percent). Similar results were found for reading grades, self-concept and attitudes toward school with the tutors outscoring the comparison group.

This research base informed the identification of program elements found to be critical to its implementation and success, allowing for replication as the program expanded across the country. The research also served as the basis for the evaluation design which continues to be one of the most rigorous of any dropout prevention model.

This research study was first published in the Texas Researcher, Volume 3, Winter 1992 (pp.111-130).