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Characteristics and postsecondary pathways of students who participate in acceleration programs in Minnesota


Minnesota high school students have the opportunity to take advanced courses that simultaneously earn high school and college credit, yet little is known about what types of students are participating and succeeding in these programs, or their college pathways after high school. This study examined participation in the various acceleration programs available to Minnesota high school students, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate coursework, postsecondary enrollment options, concurrent enrollment, and other/unknown programs. Student- and school-level data on the 2011 cohort of Minnesota high school graduates (N = 59,499) were obtained from the Minnesota Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System. The study team used descriptive statistics to examine differences in (a) rates of participation and credit awarded at the college level between student demographic and academic subgroups, and high school size and locale; and (b) college enrollment patterns and early college success between participants and nonparticipants. The study team also used hierarchical linear modeling to examine the association between acceleration program participation and college enrollment, achievement, and persistence while controlling for other student- and school-level characteristics. Almost half of the 2011 cohort of Minnesota high school graduates participated in at least one acceleration program during high school, and half of participants were awarded dual credit by the Minnesota colleges in which they enrolled. Participation and dual credit award rates varied by acceleration program and student subgroups; economically disadvantaged students, racial/ethnic minorities, and academically lower achieving students did not participate in acceleration programs and were not awarded credit at a rate equivalent to their peers. The majority of Minnesota colleges where acceleration program participants enrolled and were awarded credit were selective and very selective four-year colleges. Students who participated in acceleration programs had higher rates of college enrollment, readiness, and persistence than nonparticipants, and this difference was statistically significant after controlling for student gender, race/ethnicity, ACT/SAT scores, economic status, and high school size and locale, regardless of whether credit was awarded at the college level. Half of all high school graduates participated in acceleration programs, however participation was disproportionately white, economically advantaged, and academically high achieving. While more rigorous research is needed to examine the effectiveness of participation in these programs, the results of this study point to a relationship between acceleration program participation and positive early college outcomes, regardless of the number of credits awarded by colleges. This study raise several considerations for educators and policymakers, including expanding acceleration program opportunities for economically disadvantaged students, racial/ethnic minorities, and lower achieving students; a deeper understanding of programs falling into the other/unknown category of acceleration programs; and examining policies related to the award of dual credit at the college level.

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Publication Date:
February 2017