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IES Grant

Title: Study of the Efficacy of North Carolina's Learn and Earn Early College High School Model
Center: NCER Year: 2006
Principal Investigator: Edmunds, Julie Awardee: University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $2,871,016
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305R060022

Purpose: In this project, the researchers proposed to evaluate the impact of early college high schools. Early college high schools, often located on college campuses, were designed to accelerate the academic progress of students while minimizing the barriers between high school and college. At the time of this study, they were a recent intervention with very little research on their impact. Therefore, the researchers aimed to

  1. determine whether students who attend early college high schools perform significantly better than students in traditional high schools
  2. examine the extent to which effects on student outcomes vary by student characteristics
  3. identify the extent to which specific early college high school components are associated with positive student outcomes.

Structured Abstract


Setting: The study will examine 50 high schools in North Carolina with funding to implement the early college high school model through the governor's Learn and Earn Initiative.

Sample: The sample will consist of all students who applied and were considered for acceptance by the participating early college high schools. In 2005-2006, the first year of operation for many of these schools, the early college high schools had an average freshman class of 65 students drawn from a larger pool of 165 applicants. Schools participating in the study have agreed to assign students from the eligible applicant pool.

Intervention: The early college high schools located on college campuses feature

  1. an articulated program of study for grades 9 to 12 or 13 leading to the associate's degree
  2. a rigorous curriculum combined with work-based learning experiences
  3. academic and affective support structures for students
  4. ongoing professional development and support for teachers

Research Design and Methods: The experimental group will include all students randomly assigned to attend participating early college high schools. The study will use a longitudinal experimental design to study the effects of early college high schools on students' achievement, behavior, and attitudes compared to the traditional high school experience. The study will also examine student outcomes relative to specific student characteristics, including at-risk factors such as poverty and first-generation college status.

Control Condition: 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 will experience the normal high school experience in their district.

Key Measures: Outcome measures include student attendance, frequency of higher-level course taking, attitudes toward self and school, behavior at school, aspirations after graduation from high school, scores on North Carolina standardized tests, and school-leaving and dropout rates.

Data Analytic Strategy: Differences between the experimental and control students will be examined using hierarchical linear modeling to account for the clustering of students by schools.

Related IES Projects: Assessing the Effectiveness of the Small High School Initiative (R305R060062), Follow-Up to the Study of the Efficacy of North Carolina's Early College High School Model (R305A110085), Impact of Early College High School (ECHS) Model on Postsecondary Performance and Completion (R305A140361), Early College High Schools at Scale: Probing Impacts and Generalizability with a Quasi-Experiment Benchmarked Against an RCT (R305A150477), The Evaluation of Career and College Promise (R305H190036)

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications:

Journal articles

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., Bernstein, L., Glennie, E., Willse, J., Arshavsky, N., Unlu, F., Bartz, D., Silberman, T., Scales, W.D., and Dallas, A. (2010). Preparing Students for College: The Implementation and Impact of the Early College High School Model. Peabody Journal of Education, 85 (3): 348–364.

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

** This project was submitted to and funded under Middle and High School Reform in FY 2006.