- Top charities
The last time we examined the charities working primarily in the U.S. was in 2010. As of 2011, we have de-prioritized further work on this cause.
The content we created in 2007 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about the organization and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions.
What do they do? The LEDA Scholars Program is a college preparatory program serving economically disadvantaged high school students. The program consists of a full-time, seven-week summer program (following 11th grade) and college advising and assistance during 12th grade. Applicants to LEDA's program undergo a rigorous application process that includes academic evaluation, multiple recommendations, and an interview.
Does it work? We aren't confident that LEDA is significantly impacting its students, i.e., causing them to perform better than they would without its help. The only empirical study we have access to is highly ambiguous. It follows a group of LEDA scholars as well as a group of students who were rejected from the program in the final round, and finds that the former matriculated more frequently (and to more selective schools); but we believe that those who gain acceptance into the program are likely much better off to begin with than those who are rejected, and it is not intuitively or empirically clear to us that LEDA is adding significantly to these already accomplished students' opportunities.
Applicants to LEDA's program undergo a highly selective application process; those who are selected go through LEDA's full-time, seven-week summer program (following 11th grade) and receive college advising and assistance during 12th grade.
LEDA targets students from minority (African-American, Latino, and Native American) backgrounds (Attachment A-2 Pg 1) and those who come from relatively low-income families (families of the first LEDA cohort had an average income of $40,000 per year, as stated in Attachment B-9). Over the 4 year history of the program, LEDA has served 250 students, 120 of whom have come from New York City (Attachment A-2 Pg 1).
Applicants to LEDA participate in a rigorous application process, which assesses students' academic records (grades and difficulty of courses taken), writing ability (through one essay prepared specifically for LEDA and three additional writing samples), four recommendations, and interviews with applicants and their parents (Attachment A-2 Pg 1-2).
In the summer preceding scholars' senior year of high school, LEDA holds a seven-week program at Princeton University. The program consists largely of college-style academic work that aims to prepare scholars academically and socially for college (Attachment A-2 Pg 3). In addition, the program offers student-specific guidance to help scholars prepare for the college application process (Attachment A-2 Pg 3).
During students' senior year of high school, LEDA provides college admissions assistance, including help navigating the financial aid process (Attachment A-2 Pg 3) and direct advocacy of scholars to admissions and financial aid officers (Attachment A-2 Pg 3).
Because LEDA has a selective admissions process, we believe its scholars may be students who are already positioned to succeed in the college admissions process; the question is how much better they do with LEDA's help than they would without it. We have little to go on, either intuitively or empirically, to answer this question.
LEDA provided us with a study (Attachment B-1) that attempts to gauge impact by following both the students who went through its program and a "control group" comprised of students who were denied admission in the final stage of the process. The former group enrolled more frequently in college (and at more selective schools) than the latter:
|Comparison||LEDA scholars||Control group|
|% in college||96%||93%|
|% in selective college (Top 145 schools acc. to Kahlenberg, 2004)||95%||26%|
|% in Ivy League schools||41%||2%|
If these two groups had been largely similar to begin with (i.e., prior to their interaction with LEDA), such a difference might imply that LEDA had a positive impact. However, we believe that the two groups are not comparable: LEDA scholars were significantly more academically accomplished than control group students, before ever enrolling in LEDA's program. The table below illustrates this by comparing background characteristics of LEDA scholars and the control group.
|Comparison||LEDA scholars||Control group|
|PSAT (SAT equivalent scale)||1214||1067|
LEDA scholars had noticeably higher SAT and PSAT scores, and higher class rank. These differences almost certainly cannot be attributed to the LEDA program's effects: students take the PSAT in the fall of their junior year of high school, and the difference between LEDA scholars and the control group is noticeable by this measure.
We find it highly plausible that the superior performance of the LEDA students in question (shown in the first table) was a function of their background characteristics (shown in the second table), and not of the LEDA program itself.
Although LEDA's scholars are successful in gaining admission to selective colleges, we are not confident that much of this success can be attributed to LEDA, as opposed to scholars' existing academic credentials. We would need to see a more compelling empirical case in order to consider this program a proven way of helping disadvantaged students.