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Ramping up for college readiness in Minnesota high schools: Implementation of a schoolwide program

by James Lindsay, Elisabeth Davis, Jennifer Stephan, Pamela Bonsu and Jason Narlock
Ramping up for college readiness in Minnesota high schools: Implementation of a schoolwide program

The College Readiness Consortium at the University of Minnesota has developed Ramp-Up to Readiness™ (Ramp-Up), a schoolwide advisory program to increase students' likelihood of college enrollment and completion by enhancing five dimensions of college readiness (academic, admissions, career, financial, and personal-social) among students in middle schools and high schools. The program has been piloted in 52 middle and high schools throughout Minnesota, but few data are available on the program's effectiveness. Stakeholders involved in the Midwest College and Career Success Research Alliance expressed an interest in learning more about the program: how it attempts to improve students' college readiness, how it differs from typical college readiness supports in high schools, how it is implemented, whether schools meet the consortium's expectations for implementation, and how school staff perceive the program. Since 2012 the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest has worked with members of the alliance to find answers. This report identifies the core components of the Ramp-Up program, provides information on how Ramp-Up differs from other college readiness activities, measures the degree to which schools in a sample of Minnesota high schools were able to meet the consortium's standards for adequate implementation, and provides comments from high school staff about the program's strengths and weaknesses as well as the challenges they experienced while implementing it. Twenty Minnesota public schools serving grades 10-12 were involved in the study. Ten of the 20 schools were randomly assigned to implement Ramp-Up during the 2013/14 school year, while the other 10 were assigned to implement Ramp-Up during 2014/15. During April-July 2014 the study team collected data from staff and students at these schools. Data collection included interviews with the school staff members who were most familiar with the schools' college readiness programming, focus groups with staff, and staff surveys. Students in grades 10-12 also completed a survey. The study's main findings are: (1) Schools implementing Ramp-Up provided more emphasis on college readiness than non-Ramp-Up schools did, and teachers in Ramp-Up schools provided more emphasis on four of the five dimensions of readiness than teachers in non-Ramp- Up schools did; (2) When averaged across Ramp-Up program components, all schools' implementation fidelity scores fell within the range that the consortium had designated as adequate; (3) 8 of the 10 Ramp-Up schools had difficulty developing and monitoring students' postsecondary plans, which is one of Ramp-Up's core component processes; and (4) Ramp-Up schools' staff generally had a favorable view of the program and offered several ways to improve it. Appended are: (1) Background information on college readiness; (2) Study data and methodology; and (3) Additional results related to research questions 3 and 4.

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