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IES Grant

Title: Follow-Up to the Study of the Efficacy of North Carolina's Early College High School Model
Center: NCER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Edmunds, Julie Awardee: University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,851,954
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A110085

Co-Principal Investigator: Larry Bernstein (RTI International)

Purpose: This project will carry out a follow-up of students already taking part in an evaluation of North Carolina's Early College High School program. Early College High Schools are intended to increase the number of students graduating from high school who are prepared for and who enroll in postsecondary education. In this follow-up study of an earlier IES grant (R305R060022) that found significant initial impacts on 9th and 10th graders, impacts will be estimated for longer-term outcomes including success in college preparatory courses, high school graduation, college credit attainment during high school, and enrollment and persistence in postsecondary education.

Project Activities: This three-year project will follow students from a previous experimental study to evaluate Early College High Schools (ECHS). In the earlier study, students entering 9th grade applied to attend an Early College High School and were randomly assigned through a lottery to attend that Early College High School or not (those not attending the ECHS attended high school of their own choosing such as their local school). Three cohorts of 9th graders were included in the earlier study starting with the 2007–08 cohort at 5 ECHS schools and continuing with the 2008–09 cohort at 11 ECHS schools and the 2009–10 cohort at 15 ECHS schools. In addition, the earlier project was also following two earlier cohorts at 2 schools from a pilot study. Student outcomes were gathered for both the ECHS students and those students who had lost the lottery and attended other schools by using North Carolina administrative data. The initial project found that for Cohort 1 (9th grade outcomes) and the pilot cohorts (9th and 10th grade outcomes) the ECHS students made greater progress through a college preparatory mathematics courses (but not English courses) and had fewer unexcused absences and lower suspension rates than the control students. Analyses of additional data for all cohorts will continue until the initial project ends in June 2011.

In this follow-up project, the three cohorts of students from the initial study plus the pilot study students will be followed for an additional three years. Longer-term student outcomes will be obtained from administrative data and the longer term impacts of ECHS on students will be estimated for college preparatory course taking and success; student achievement on end of course tests; student attendance and behavior; dropout status; continued enrollment and promotion; high school graduation; college credit accumulation during high school; and enrollment and persistence in postsecondary education. More information will be available for the earlier cohorts than the later ones, for example, Cohort 3 will not have college enrollment data.

Products: Products include evidence of efficacy of North Carolina's Early College High School intervention, including information about the cost-benefits of the program. These will be published in peer reviewed journals.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The setting is 19 Early College High Schools in 19 different school districts in North Carolina.

Population: The 19 schools are distributed across North Carolina and include schools in rural and urban areas and schools with predominantly White or predominantly African-American populations. The initial study included a sample of 3,051 9th grade students. This follow-up study expects to include at least 2,400 of these students in its analyses of high-school outcomes (e.g., course success, graduation, and college-credits obtained in high school) and at least 1,100 students for the analyses of postsecondary enrollment and persistence.

Control group: The control group will include students who applied, but were not randomly assigned, to attend the Early College High Schools. Students in the control group experience "business as usual" which is expected to be the normal high school experience in their school district.

Intervention: Early College High Schools (ECHSs) are designed to accelerate the academic progress of students while minimizing the barriers between high school and college. In North Carolina, they are physically located on campuses of higher education (primarily community colleges) and serve a maximum of 400 students in grades 9–12. They are managed by the school district in partnership with the postsecondary institution. Students in ECHSs are expected to graduate in four to five years with a high school diploma and an Associate's degree or two years of transferable college credit. All North Carolina ECHSs are to adhere to a set of five design principles: College Readiness (academic expectations, course-taking requirements, college counseling); Powerful Teaching and Learning (rigorous and relevant instruction, formative assessment); Personalization (forming relationships and student support activities); Professionalism (professional development, staff collaboration, staff decision-making); and Purposeful Design (school autonomy, integration with the college, small size).

Research Design and Methods: The project will use a longitudinal experimental design by carrying out a follow-up study of students who took part in an earlier experiment in which they were randomly assigned to attend an ECHS or attend the type of school they would normally attend. The project will supplement the data collected under the initial study with longer term student outcomes and use them to estimate the impact of ECHS. Separate analyses will be done for sub-groups targeted by the model, including low-income students, minority students, and students who are the first in their family to go to college. If impacts are found, a cost-benefit analysis will be done.

Key Measures: Key student outcome measures will be obtained from North Carolina administrative data and include: college preparatory course taking (courses required for entrance into the University of North Carolina system); scores on and passing of end of course exams for college preparatory courses; attendance, suspensions and expulsions; dropout and continued enrollment status; promotion; graduation; college credits accumulated during high school (from both community college courses and AP courses); enrollment in postsecondary education; and persistence in postsecondary education (over 3 years for the pilot cohort and 1 year for Cohort 2).

Data Analytic Strategy: Differences between the experimental and control students will be examined using multivariate regression analysis with randomization blocks to account for clustering. These analyses will be repeated for sub-groups of interest. Impact estimates for graduation rates will be used to create a cost-benefit ratio for the model.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Edmunds, J.A. (2012). Early Colleges: A New Model of Schooling Focusing on College Readiness. New Directions for Higher Education, 158: 81–90.

Edmunds, J.A., Arshavsky, N., Lewis, K., Thrift, B., Unlu, F., and Furey, J. (2017). Preparing Students for College: Lessons Learned From the Early College. NASSP Bulletin, 101(2), 117–141.

Edmunds, J.A., Bernstein, L., Unlu, F., Glennie, E., Willse, J., Smith, A., and Arshavsky, N. (2012). Expanding the Start of the College Pipeline: Ninth-Grade Findings From an Experimental Study of the Impact of the Early College High School Model. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 5(2): 136–159.

Edmunds, J.A., Unlu, F., Glennie, E., Bernstein, L., Fesler, L., Furey, J., and Arshavsky, N. (2017). Smoothing the Transition to Postsecondary Education: The Impact of the Early College Model. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 10(2), 297–325.

Edmunds, J.A., Willse, J., Arshavsky, N., and Dallas, A. (2013). Mandated Engagement: The Impact of Early College High Schools. Teachers College Record, 115(7): 1–31.

Glennie, E J., Mason, M., and Edmunds, J.A. (2016). Retention and Satisfaction of Novice Teachers: Lessons From a School Reform Model. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 4(4), 244–258.