Guryan's Work Helps Spark Social Policy Revolution

Guryan's Work Helps Spark Social Policy Revolution

Jonathan GuryanNorthwestern University economist Jonathan Guryan is on the front lines of a social policy revolution in Chicago, according to the March issue of Chicago magazine.

Guryan’s research on the consequences of racial inequality in education has helped Chicago become a “font of scholarship and hands-on innovation that is transforming social policy worldwide,” wrote Adam Waytz in “Why We Love Chicago: The Social Policy Revolution Starts Here.”

Intensive, one-on-two math tutoring for an hour a day, for example, can improve academic performance across multiple subjects, according to work by Guryan, associate professor of economics and human development and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy, and his colleagues at the University of Chicago.

 “(Tutoring) not only reduced the gap in math test scores between white and black students in Chicago’s public schools by a third but also improved black students’ performance in other subjects and increased their overall academic engagement,” Waytz wrote in Chicago magazine. “It was a novel notion: Nail math and you’ve got a leg up across the board.”

In a recent opinion piece published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Guryan and the University of Chicago’s Anuj Shah detailed intriguing findings in another area of research: the Becoming a Man (BAM) program, which uses mentoring, group activating and role-playing exercises to help young people learn how to slow down and think before they act, to reduce violence and increase graduation rates.

“Young people growing up in violent neighborhoods shoulder a burden that the affluent do not. They cannot afford to think fast,” wrote Guryan and Shah. “They have to think slowly because the code of the street is different from the code of the classroom. They are constantly navigating different codes and nuances, and getting it right can be the difference between life and death. This may be why programs based on cognitive behavioral therapy are so effective.”

Guyran is a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and co-founder and co-director of the Chicago Urban Education Lab at the University of Chicago. His work suggests that new and innovative in-school programs can improve learning and achievement, even among older adolescents, which refutes the notion that it can be too late to help older children and teens improve in school.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 2/16/17