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Report examines the association between high school choice in Indiana and students’ college and career readiness and early college success

School choice and success in high school and college

By Maggi Ibis
March 15, 2021

Indiana students have several high school enrollment options, including traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools that accept Indiana Choice Scholarships (private voucher schools). A new study from Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest examined the association between Indiana students’ high school choice and their college and career readiness and early college success. The study found meaningful differences in outcomes among students who enrolled in different types of high schools, but more research is needed to determine the causes of those differences.

>> Read and download the full report here.

Understanding the connection between school choice and college and career readiness

Although there are several options for high school in Indiana, little research is available on the characteristics of students who attend different types of high schools and how students’ college and career readiness and early college success vary. At the request of the Indiana Department of Education, REL Midwest conducted a study to help the agency better understand the characteristics of students who enrolled in different types of high schools and the association between high school choice and students’ college and career readiness and early college success.

The study examined four cohorts of Indiana students who entered grade 9 between 2010/11 and 2013/14 and were on track to begin college between 2014/15 and 2017/18. These students enrolled in either traditional public schools, charter schools, or private voucher schools (with or without a voucher).

For each type of high school, the study team calculated the percentage of students with different characteristics, such as gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English learner student status, special education status, the type of school a student attended in grade 8, and the location of a student’s school (urban, suburban, town, or rural). The study team also calculated the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards on the grade 8 state achievement test for each type of high school.

In addition, researchers used regression models to study the relationship between type of high school in grade 9 and several indicators of college and career readiness and early college success. These indicators included being absent more than 15 days in one year; taking and passing Advanced Placement examinations; enrolling in college within one year of high school graduation; and for students who enrolled in an Indiana public college or university, enrolling in a two-year or four-year college, completing all first-year college credits, and persisting to a second year of college.

What did the study find?

Key findings include the following:

  • Students in traditional high schools and nonvoucher students (that is, students who attended private voucher schools but did not receive a voucher) were less likely than other students to be eligible for the national school lunch program (an indicator of economic disadvantage). In addition, students who enrolled in charter high schools had the lowest grade 8 achievement scores.
  • Students in private voucher schools—regardless of whether they received a voucher—were less likely than students in traditional public schools and charter schools to ever fail a course or to ever be suspended in high school, after accounting for other factors. However, students in traditional public schools were more likely than students in other school types to take an Advanced Placement examination and more likely than charter school students to pass one.
  • One year after high school graduation, students in private voucher schools—regardless of whether they received a voucher—were more likely than students in traditional public schools to enroll in college and, along with charter school students, were more likely than students in traditional public schools to enroll in an Indiana public four-year college rather than an Indiana public two-year college, after accounting for other factors.
  • Among students who enrolled in an Indiana public college or university, there were no differences in taking only nonremedial courses in the first year. The percentage of students who completed all attempted credits in the first year and persisted to a second year of college also was similar across high school types, with the exception of nonvoucher students, who performed slightly better than all other students on completing all attempted credits and were better than charter school students in persisting to a second year of college, after accounting for other factors.

What can we take away from the findings?

Indiana state education agency administrators, school district administrators, charter school leaders and authorizers, and leaders of private voucher schools can use these findings to inform policy design related to improving college and career readiness and early college success. Indiana school leaders also can use the results for their type(s) of high school to identify which college and career readiness and early college success outcomes they may want to prioritize in their improvement efforts.

In addition, the findings suggest the need for further causal research that could provide deeper insights into the policies, practices, resources, and other factors that might account for different outcomes in college and career readiness and early college success. After identifying these outcomes, school leaders could review or conduct causal research to identify practices that improve these outcomes.

Related resources

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Author information

Maggi Ibis Staff Picture

Maggi Ibis

Research Associate | REL Midwest

mibis@air.org

Topics

Beating the odds (2)

Charter Schools (2)

College and Career Readiness (41)

Data Use (31)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (30)

Educator Effectiveness (36)

English Learners (10)

Literacy (10)

Math (1)

Online Courses (7)

Research Tools (2)

Rural (14)

Teacher Preparation (23)

Teacher Recruitment (1)

Teacher Retention (1)

Teacher Workforce (13)

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