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IES Grant

Title: A Longitudinal Study of International Baccalaureate Students: Postsecondary Education Access, Performance, and Persistence
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: May, Henry Awardee: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years Award Amount: $700,000
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A090049

Purpose: Despite a lack of scientifically based research, credit-based transition programs such as International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), and dual enrollment programs in which high school students earn both high school and college-level credit for taking a college level course have become very popular as a means to increase the rigor of high school course offerings and improve the curricular alignment between high school and college. The purpose of this research is to examine the relationships between participation in the IB Diploma Program and a range of college-related outcomes that occur on the path into and through higher education.

Project Activities: This project involves statistical and econometric analyses of merged data from three large scale longitudinal databases in order to compare postsecondary access, performance, and persistence of IB students and similar students not participating in IB programs.

Products: This project will produce numerous refereed journal articles and two CPRE policy briefs, along with presentations at national conferences, online publications via CPRE's website and announcements in CPRE electronic newsletters.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study includes all public high schools, colleges, and universities in Florida, and a sample of public and private universities nationwide.

Population: The sample for this study is drawn from the population of students attending schools in Florida during 1995–2007, and also from the population of IB students nationwide.

Intervention: The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program is a rigorous academic curriculum for grades 11–12 that is used by schools in 128 countries. It was originally developed by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) in 1968 to meet the needs of international schools serving students from diverse cultural and national backgrounds. In the past two decades, the IB Diploma Program has become increasingly popular in the United States and elsewhere as perhaps the most rigorous upper-division high school program to prepare academically motivated students for success in college. IB students are required to take advanced courses in six core subject areas as part of a broad liberal arts curriculum. In addition, IB students are required to take a course in critical thinking, participate in community service, and produce an independent research project. During the 2006–07 school year, more than 14,000 students in the United States participated in the IB Diploma Program, including more than 5,000 minority students and more than 2,000 economically disadvantaged students. For IB students in the United States, participation in the IB Diploma Program is expected to increase the chances of acceptance to a selective university and often results in college credits that are awarded based upon performance on the IB exam.

Research Design and Methods: This is an observational study in which postsecondary outcomes for IB students are compared to those of other similar students not participating in IB. Because not every school offers an IB program, and students who eventually choose to participate in IB programs are a self-selected group, our analytic models include several statistical and econometric approaches for addressing selection bias.

Key Measures: By combining data across the International Baccalaureate North American (IBNA) database, the Florida K–20 Education Data Warehouse (EDW), and the National Student Clearinghouse, we can study college enrollment and graduation for a national sample, while using more detailed data from the state of Florida to produce a comprehensive picture of the relationship between participation in IB and students' postsecondary trajectories as reflected by indicators of academic readiness for college (e.g., high school GPA, SAT scores), access to college (e.g., application and acceptance rates), academic performance in college (e.g., GPA, course grades), persistence to bachelor's degree attainment (e.g., time to graduation), and access to post-baccalaureate degree programs (e.g., application and acceptance rates). Data from a Web-based survey of IB program directors will be also used to explore IB program characteristics and the moderating effects of these factors on student outcomes.

Data Analytic Strategy: Several statistical and econometric models will be used to compare postsecondary outcomes of IB students and other similar students. The statistical analyses include five approaches to adjusting for selection bias including covariance analyses, propensity score matching, econometric control-function models, Bayesian analyses, and instrumental variables models. The statistical models employed in this research also will use one of three methods for analyzing multilevel data including random-effects HLM models, fixed-effects models, and Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) models. Formal tests of mediating and moderating variables will also be conducted using simultaneous equation models or multivariate models that include both the mediating variables and primary outcomes as dependent variables.

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Perna, L.W., May , H., Yee, A., Ransom, T., Rodriguez, A., and Fester, R. (2015). Unequal Access to Rigorous High School Curricula: An Exploration of the Opportunity to Benefit From the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Education Policy, 29(2): 402–.

Nongovernment report, issue brief, or practice guide

May, H., Rodriguez, A., Sirinides, P., Perna, L.W., Yee, A., and Ransom, T. (2013). Apples and Oranges: Comparing the Backgrounds and Academic Trajectories of International Baccalaureate Students to a Matched Comparison Group. Research Report: CPRE.