IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Effective Postsecondary Interventions: Early Colleges Combine High School and College to Benefit Students

Across a set of research grant programs, IES generates knowledge of how to increase students’ access to, progress through, and completion of postsecondary credentials and degrees. Funded projects develop and test a range of interventions from state-level policies to classroom practices, with an emphasis on strategies that promote college attainment for students historically underrepresented in postsecondary education. This new blog series called Effective Postsecondary Interventions highlights interventions with evidence of effectiveness generated through IES-funded research.


The Early College High School Model

The Early College High School (ECHS) model addresses barriers to college attainment commonly experienced by students historically underrepresented in higher education. Students from low-income families and minoritized racial and ethnic groups often attend high schools that lack rigorous pre-college courses, strong support for college enrollment, and established connections to colleges and universities. For those students, cost is an additional barrier to enrollment and persistence in college. The ECHS model addresses these barriers by combining secondary and postsecondary instruction within the same school, prioritizing college-preparatory high school courses, offering opportunities to enroll in college courses while in high school, and providing comprehensive supports for academic and social-emotional development—all at little or no cost to the students. Although concurrent enrollment in high school and college courses (dual enrollment) is a core component of the model, the ECHS model is more expansive than dual enrollment because it includes a broader set of intervention components and has a clear equity objective.

All early colleges reflect these four design principles:

  • Enrollment of students historically underrepresented in higher education
  • Partnerships including a local education agency, a higher education institution, and the surrounding community
  • An integrated program of secondary and postsecondary education with the goal of all students earning 1 to 2 years of college credit prior to high school graduation
  • A comprehensive support system for students to develop academic skills as well as social and behavioral skills.


Attending Early Colleges Increases Postsecondary Attainment

Four IES-funded projects have evaluated impacts of the ECHS model. Prior studies within these projects found that significantly larger percentages of early college students completed a college preparatory course of study during high school and enrolled in postsecondary education within six years of entering high school. The two most recent projects assess postsecondary attainment:

In addition, early college students earned associate degrees at rates that exceeded their counterparts in traditional high schools by 22% and 18%, respectively, while earning bachelor’s degrees at equal or higher rates. These impacts are substantial, and especially noteworthy because both evaluations studied early colleges across a range of settings. Moreover, the impacts are similar for different student subgroups, regardless of gender, race/ethnicity, or family income.


Why have early colleges been so effective?

Early colleges set high expectations, provide high-quality interactions between staff and students, and encourage college access and success for all students. Several studies confirm that early colleges substantially improve high school experiences and outcomes. Students in North Carolina early colleges reported higher expectations, more rigorous and relevant instruction, stronger academic and social supports, and better relationships with teachers than their counterparts in other high schools. Early college students in AIR’s five-state sample reported significantly higher levels of college-going culture and instructor support than their counterparts in traditional high schools. The combination of high expectations and supportive relationships promotes better outcomes for early college students beginning in ninth grade (compared with students in other high schools). For instance, early college students are more likely to persist in college-preparatory math courses, attain a significant number of college credits during high school, and graduate from high school. Importantly, these positive results hold for students from all racial and ethnic groups, including students who enter high school at low levels of math proficiency.

For more information about the studies, the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has posted a brief of impact findings from their evaluation of North Carolina early colleges. The American Institutes of Research has posted a brief of impact findings from their five-state evaluation of early colleges.  

Written by James Benson (, a Program Officer for Postsecondary Education within NCER’s Policy and Systems Division.

Teachers Should Not Be Left Wondering What Works

The past two school years have posed many new and unexpected challenges for students and teachers. One thing that has not changed much is that educators continue to need quick access to evidence on strategies that can best support students. The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, aims to meet these needs with ready-to-use practices supported by evidence. The WWC Practice Guides describe these practices and how to implement them, most recently in the new guide for assisting students struggling in mathematics. These Practice Guides contain the classroom strategies and tips that are most likely to help improve student outcomes.

More than two dozen free Practice Guides address challenges educators face in teaching math, reading, and writing; supporting positive student behavior; and preventing dropout. The recommendations in Practice Guides are based on evidence from well-designed and well-implemented studies, the experiences of practitioners, and the expert opinions of a panel of nationally recognized experts.

Ann Jolly, an instructional program manager at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Program for Exceptional Children, has used WWC Practice Guides for years. She describes her experiences using the WWC resources below. Her experiences may help teachers or instructional leaders understand how to better incorporate evidence-based practices into their own practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic has us all wondering where the time goes. We want to use the most promising evidence-based practices to support our students. However, as expressed by one teacher who understands how easy it is to forget about trying out something new in the face of day-to-day demands, “Yeah, you just get busy teaching…

Whether you are a new teacher trying to figure out how to balance teaching, lesson planning, grading, and other duties, or a veteran who is “busy teaching,” you should check out the WWC. The WWC, created by the U.S. Department of Education, is an easy-to-navigate website with valuable resources. I know that, as teachers, we are constantly seeking out resources that will enable us to provide the best instruction to our students. The WWC can help by searching for research, reviewing studies for quality, and summarizing findings, so that busy teachers like us can focus on our students! Here’s a quick look at some of the WWC resources I have used to make a difference in my school and district as an instructional leader collaborating with teachers and families.

When I needed help boosting reading comprehension among my special education students, I used the WWC Practice Guide Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade. This guide provided me with recommendations of practices and other relevant information that the WWC gathered to support classroom instruction. For example, I was able to quickly see that teaching students how to use reading comprehension strategies had the strongest evidence, so I knew to focus on that. The guide gave me easy-to-understand resources about how to bring the strategies into my classroom, plus videos and reference tools with examples. These were easy to digest and I was able to immediately implement the recommendations in my classroom.

When I needed strategies to support literacy at home and in school, I used the WWC Practice Guide Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade and its supplemental resources. Not only does the guide include a wealth of information for teachers, but companion documents include a summary of recommendations, a Professional Learning Communities Facilitator’s Guide, and Tips for Supporting Reading Skills at Home. I used the last tool to develop a presentation for parents. Parents took notes and asked questions as they made connections between the guide and the practices they could use at home with their children. Finding opportunities like this one to build relationships between teachers and parents may be even more important now, during a pandemic, than it was when I held this workshop. 

When my school was looking for strategies to improve student behavior, I facilitated a book club with school staff using the WWC Practice Guide Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom. I began the club after noticing that other teachers were coming to me for suggestions about a common pattern of behaviors interfering with student learning.  This WWC guide offered several strategies to share. Although we started by discussing a specific behavioral issue and a recommended practice to address it, we eventually worked through the whole guide, chapter by chapter. The WWC Practice Guide gave us a free resource with powerful evidence-based strategies and practices for us to try. Teachers across grade levels and content areas actively collaborated through the book club and were able to build a common language and understanding about schoolwide practices. One of the great embedded features in WWC Practice Guides are the “Obstacles” or “Roadblocks.” This feature acknowledges perceived and actual barriers to implementing evidence-based practices and suggests solutions to overcome them!

The WWC has created a wide range of other Practice Guides, covering students from early childhood through high school graduation (and beyond). The most recent products include Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Intervention in the Elementary Grades, a Practice Guide for educators in grades K to 6 that provides ready-to-use strategies for assisting struggling students. Some of my colleagues have used the guides on Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively, Teaching Math to Young Children, and Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making. So many more Practice Guides are available!

I also encourage you to sign up now for the WWC News Flash and add the WWC to your social media network on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube to easily keep up with the most current information. Research evidence on “what works” in education is there just for you. When you have a question, rely on the WWC…and don’t be left wondering what works!

This blog was written by Ann C. Jolly, Instructional Program Manager, Programs for Exceptional Children at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools with Data Rotz, Mathematica. 

Recognizing Asian and Pacific Islander Educators with the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS)

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which celebrates the achievements of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans and immigrants and the many ways they have contributed to the United States.

In honor of Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander1 educators who help students learn every day, here are some selected facts and figures from the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS). The NTPS collects data about public and private K–12 schools in the United States from the perspective of the teachers and principals who staff them. These data were collected in 2017–18, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.


Composition of U.S. K12 Public and Private Schools: 201718

  • Although Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander teachers and principals are important members of school communities, they comprise a relatively small percentage of public and private school educators overall. Less than 1 percent of either public or private school teachers (0.2 and 0.1 percent,2 respectively) and principals (0.2 percent and 0.3 percent,3 respectively) were Native Hawaiian/Pacific islander.

Figure 1. Percentage distribution of all teachers and principals who are Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, by school type: 201718

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), "Public School Teacher and Private School Teacher Data File, Public School Principal and Private School Principal Data File," 2017–18

Community and K12 School Characteristics: 201718

  • A higher percentage of Asian teachers worked in city schools than in most other community types (i.e., suburb, town, and rural) in 2017–18. There were some differences by school type (i.e., public vs. private).4 For example, teacher employment patterns in both school types were similar at rural schools and city schools but different at suburban schools.
  • Higher percentages of Asian teachers worked in both public and private city schools (3.1 and 3.8 percent, respectively) than in public and private rural schools (0.5 and 0.8 percent, respectively) (figure 2).
  • Although a lower percentage of Asian private school teachers worked in suburban schools (2.3 percent) than in city schools (3.8 percent), there was no significant difference in the percentage of Asian public school teachers who worked in suburban versus city schools.

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of all teachers who are Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, by school type and community type: 201718

# Rounds to zero
! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
‡ Reporting standards not met. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is 50 percent or greater (i.e., the standard error is 50 percent or more of the estimate) or the response rate is below 50 percent.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), "Public School Teacher and Private School Teacher Data File," 2017–18

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, NCES would like to thank Asian and Pacific Islander educators nationwide who play vital roles in our education system.

The data in this blog would not be possible without the participation of teachers, principals, and school staff in the NTPS. We are currently conducting the 2020–21 NTPS to learn more about teaching experiences during the pandemic. If you were contacted about participating in the 2020–21 NTPS and have questions, please email or call 1-888-595-1338.

For more information about the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), please visit More findings and details are available in the NTPS schoolteacher, and principal reports.


[1] The NTPS definition of “Asian American or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander” is synonymous with the Library of Congress’ term “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The Library of Congress, one of the sponsors of the heritage month, states that Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island). Note that the Hawaiian Islands are included as “Pacific islands” in their definition but are named independently in the NTPS definition, and that only Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander respondents who also indicated that they were not Hispanic, which includes Latino, are included in this definition.

[2] Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 percent and 50 percent (i.e., the standard error is at least 30 percent and less than 50 percent of the estimate).

[3] Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 percent and 50 percent (i.e., the standard error is at least 30 percent and less than 50 percent of the estimate).

[4] Given the size of the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander teacher and principal populations in the NTPS, granular differences about where Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander teachers and principals were more often employed is difficult to produce from a sample survey because of sample sizes.


By Julia Merlin, NCES