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Nonacademic Postsecondary Supports for Students Attending Rural High-Poverty Schools: A Systematic Evidence Review




Description: In eastern Kentucky, representatives from four school districts—Clay, Jackson, Knox, and Owsley counties—comprise the REL AP Rural College and Career Readiness partnership. Each district is classified as a remote town, rural fringe, or rural remote locale, and each serves particularly low-income communities, with free or reduced-price lunch eligibility rates ranging from 70% to 88% (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). Historically, postsecondary enrollment and persistence rates have been lower for students from rural high-poverty contexts than for their nonrural peers (Beaulieu, Israel, & Wimberly, 2003; Provasnik et al., 2007).

Partnership districts indicated that they have for many years been learning about academic components of college readiness, improving instructional practice, and tracking student outcomes (e.g., college enrollment) via reports from the Kentucky Department of Education. Yet the districts are discovering via anecdotal evidence that many students deemed academically well prepared are nonetheless leaving college after a year and returning home. Research suggests that nonacademic interventions (e.g., strengthening teacher–student relationships or community social resources) may boost college enrollment and persistence (e.g., Byun, Meece, & Irvin, 2012). Therefore, the partnership districts want to expand their knowledge of nonacademic interventions that can improve postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and attainment.

The proposed research project is designed to address the partnership districts' need to better understand what is known about nonacademic college success interventions and the extent to which that knowledge base applies to eastern Kentucky. A systematic evidence review will provide information about which college success interventions (if any) have proven effective for the population (high-poverty) and locale (rural schools) most relevant for eastern Kentucky.

Research Questions:

  1. What is the existing evidence of the impact of nonacademic K-12 interventions on student postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and attainment outcomes using well-designed and well-implemented experimental or quasi-experimental studies?
  2. To what extent do studies disaggregate this evidence for high-poverty populations, rural locales, or both?
  3. What additional research is needed to address the evidence gap for postsecondary student outcomes in rural high-poverty contexts?

Study Design: The research design will include a systematic evidence review wherein the research team will define criteria for inclusion, search for and code relevant studies, and rate the studies using WWC v3.0 standards and ESSA levels of evidence ratings. The reviewers will then synthesize the findings from the literature into the following outcome domains: postsecondary enrollment, persistence and attainment.

Projected Release Date: Winter, 2020

Partnership or Research Alliance: Rural Kentucky Readiness Partnership

Related Products: Product #1: What's Known?

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:

Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, SRI International Ms. CJ Park, SRI International