The study sample derives from the state of Tennessee. The intervention group came from 29 public high schools in northeast Tennessee across 15 counties, and the comparison group came from 29 public high schools that had similar characteristics across the state of Tennessee. The intervention was implemented between October 2011 and May 2015.
Among schools in both groups, about half of the sample (52%) were male, and the large majority were White (95%), with the remainder from minority groups (5%). More than half of the sample (55%) were free and reduced price lunch eligible. A small percentage (1%) were English language learners and 7% had Individualized Education Plans. The average ACT English, ACT Math, and ACT Science scores for schools in the sample was 20. The average graduation rate for intervention and comparison scores was around 90% (89% for Consortium schools and 91% for matched comparison schools).
This schoolwide career and college readiness intervention has 6 components: 1) effective management and communication, 2) activities to support a college-going culture, 3) high-quality instruction, 4) access to academically rigorous courses through distance and online technology, 5) expanded opportunities for college-level courses, and 6) resources and services to expand and sustain program capacity. Several stakeholders implement the intervention, i.e., Niswonger Foundation leadership, a College and Career Ready Counselors Team, a Learning Resources Team, a course review team, and a group of online course liaisons. The aim of the intervention is to increase students’ college and career readiness, enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, performance on AP exams, enrollment in college, and persistence in college.
First, i3 leadership provides management and communication, and the College and Career Counselors Team promotes a college-going culture through comprehensive college counseling, college visits, and planning activities. The Learning Resources Team works to improve the quality of instruction through teacher professional development, as well as increases access to courses through distance and online technology, and expands opportunities for college-level courses through AP and dual enrollment programming. Resources and services provide infrastructure to expand and sustain program capacity through maintaining IT services and hardware/software.
The intervention was implemented from 2010 to 2015, and outcomes were measured for students in each grade (9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, and 12th grade cohorts). The exposure to the intervention varied from 1-4 years.
The comparison schools in this study did not have access to the college preparation and academic support resources and services of the Consortium; therefore, these schools received services as usual.
Support for implementation
The Niswonger Foundation implemented the Northeast Tennessee Career and College Readiness Consortium with funding from the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program. Professional development for the Leadership Team, the Career and College Readiness Team, AP teachers, and teachers of core academic content was an integral part of the intervention. The Executive Director and Leadership Team ensured compliance with professional development for the intervention, and the fidelity of implementation for professional development activities was high as a result (p. 41). Networking among Consortium schools was facilitated through each school having a a teacher liaison for online learning; sending or receiving a distance learning course; or having counselors and teachers collaborate in an online forum. The Leadership Team also conducted regular course review meetings in which school and district administrators reviewed Consortia current course offerings and recommended course changes for the upcoming year.
The program has a logic model and fidelity can be numerically scored by rating each of the key components on a 3-point scale (low, moderate, and high). The fidelity is rated by an evaluation team. The final score for each component is a weighted average of fidelity scores for all indicators of that component. Components are determined to be "implemented with fidelity” if the weighted average is greater than or equal to 2.5 on a 3-point scale.