Focusing on Girls’ Futures

Results from the Evaluation of PACE Center for Girls


PACE Center for Girls is a Florida-based organization that provides academic and social services to girls of middle school and high school age. Girls who attend PACE have a specific set of characteristics that put them at risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system and other negative outcomes. PACE seeks to reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes tied to this profile and instead foster academic engagement, positive youth development, and healthy relationships. Such factors can help improve girls’ academic outcomes, prevent their future involvement with the justice system, and lead to long-term well-being and success.

PACE operates daily, year-round; on a typical day, girls attend academic classes and receive additional support such as individual counseling, academic advising, and referrals to other services. Throughout its delivery of these services, PACE uses principles of gender-responsive programming — that is, treatment approaches designed for girls and women.

The current report focuses mainly on the impact and cost analyses for the PACE evaluation. (Implementation research findings, released in an earlier report, found that PACE consistently implemented its program model and incorporated gender-responsive programming across its centers.) The impact analysis employed a random assignment design: Girls who applied to and were deemed eligible for PACE (using the program’s existing screening processes) enrolled in the study and were assigned at random either to a program group, whose members were offered PACE services, or to a control group, whose members received appropriate referrals to other services in the community. From August 2013 to November 2015, 1,125 girls enrolled in the study across 14 PACE centers. Using survey and administrative data, the research team measured differences between the program and control groups on short-term outcomes. Differences that emerge between the two groups on these outcomes can be attributed to the PACE program.

Key Findings

  • The program group received more academic and social services — and received them more often from a professional source — than the control group.

  • Over a one-year period, PACE increased school enrollment and attendance for the girls it served, compared with the control group. Girls in the program group were also more likely to be “on track” academically than those in the control group.

  • Girls in both the program and control groups appeared goal-oriented and hopeful about their futures and reported relatively low levels of risky behavior one year after study enrollment. Rates of formal involvement in the juvenile justice system during the 18 months after study enrollment were similar for the program and control groups.

  • The cost of PACE’s holistic package of services is, on average, $10,400 more than the cost of the services received by control group members through academic and social services provided in the community. The additional cost is largely driven by PACE’s extensive social services; the cost of academic services is similar to those of Florida public schools.

The findings on academic outcomes are promising. Further follow-up research would be necessary to see whether PACE affects longer-term academic and delinquency outcomes and to complete a full benefit-cost analysis.

Millenky, Megan, Louisa Treskon, Lily Freedman, and Caroline Mage. 2019. Focusing on Girls’ Futures. New York: MDRC.