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IES Grant

Title: High School Preparation for College Completion
Center: NCER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Balfanz, Robert Awardee: Johns Hopkins University
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,465,981
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A080544

Purpose: The goal of this project is to develop two curriculum interventions that will complement the core high school academic curriculum and improve preparation of students for transition to college, success in the freshman year, and college completion with a bachelor's degree. The theory of action is that the college environment and expectations for intellectual work are fundamentally different from those encountered during high school. First-generation college students and economically disadvantaged students will benefit from explicit support while still in high school to ensure college graduation at rates comparable to those of more advantaged students.

Project Activities: The research team plans to develop two curricula—one an advisory strand for grades 10 to 12 and one a 12th-grade course—that will provide support for first-in-family college students. These curricula will help students understand the similarities and differences between the high school and college environments, build and reinforce study and collaborative skills expected in academic courses, provide students with time and self-management tools, and give students practice with the quality, amount, and pace of thought and work that is expected in college while they are still in the supportive high school environment, close to home and among family and friends.

Products: Products of this development work include two sets of curriculum materials aimed at supporting high school students' successful entry into college level work, as well as a professional development framework to assist teachers, counselors, and administrators in effectively using the materials.

Setting: The interventions that will be developed are especially targeted for students attending the nearly 2,000 rural and urban U.S. high schools in which ninth-grade enrollment is 40 percent or more greater than the 12th-grade enrollment 4 years later (13 percent of all schools, educating 2.3 million students representing 17 percent of the high school enrollment).

Population: These students are 35% African American, 30% Hispanic/Latino American, and 54% free and reduced price lunch eligible. Many attend urban schools in which fewer than 7% of a ninth-grade cohort are likely to graduate from college within 8 years.

Intervention: The first set of materials to be developed is for a curriculum strand (grades 10–12) that builds students' pre-collegiate skills. The second set of materials is for a grade 12 immersion course that addresses the differences between high school and college and gives practice, within a known environment, with the specific new academic, critical-thinking, personal and interpersonal skills that students will need for college success. The professional development framework will re-introduce high school educators to the expectations of the various types of college environments and support parents and guardians of potential first generation college-goers in helping students make decisions.

Research Designs and Methods: In years 1 and 2, materials and processes will be iteratively developed, piloted, refined and evaluated in a process linking research and curriculum development personnel and educators. In year 3, materials and processes will be field-tested. The product is expected to be ready for efficacy trials upon completion of year 3.

Key Measures: In an effort to identify factors explaining successful (or unsuccessful) transition from high school through the first year of college, the researchers will gather selective administrative, survey, and interview information on and from high school and first-year college students and their instructors. Both general factors and factors related to particular curricula, programs, habits and skill areas will be examined.

Data Analytic Strategy: Analysis will include identifying potential malleable and mediating factors, supporting the development of a model for a high school intervention strategy targeted on improved preparation for postsecondary education, and obtaining results from piloting the model.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Middle and High School Reform in FY 2008.