College education is fundamental to students' upward mobility, states' economic growth, and the country's economic competitiveness. Researchers have forecast that 63 percent of future jobs will require a college degree, yet in the coming years the United States will likely produce 3 million fewer college graduates than are needed to fill workforce demand. With these statistics and projections in mind, policymakers are placing greater emphasis on motivating high school students to attend college and on ensuring that students have the skills needed to succeed in college. Minnesota legislators, for example, have called on the public K-12 education system to motivate middle school students to attend college and to help high school students plan for college as a means of attaining their career aspirations. To better enable middle and high schools to increase college participation and success rates among their students, the University of Minnesota's College Readiness Consortium 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 middle school and high school students. As of 2016, the program has been rolled out in 150 middle and high schools throughout Minnesota, but little information is available on the program's effectiveness. Members of the Midwest College and Career Success Research Alliance expressed an interest in learning how the program 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, how school staff perceive the program, and whether the program has an immediate impact on student outcomes. Since 2012 Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest has worked with alliance members to answer these questions. This report describes a study of the impacts of the Ramp-Up program after one year of implementation and provides information on how Ramp-Up differs from college-related supports in other schools and the degree to which Ramp-Up has been implemented with fidelity. This study involved 49 public high schools serving grades 10-12 in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Twenty-five of the 49 schools were randomly assigned to implement Ramp-Up during the 2014/15 academic year (Ramp-Up schools), and the other 24 schools were randomly assigned to continue with business as usual during 2014/15 and then implement Ramp-Up during 2015/16 (comparison schools). The final analytic sample was smaller than expected, which made it harder to detect program impacts. Data collected in fall 2014 and spring 2015 were used to examine the impact of the program after one year of implementation on students' scores on the ACT Engage goal striving and commitment to college scales along with their likelihood of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid [FAFSA] and submitting at least one college application. The study also addressed questions about whether the types of college-readiness supports offered by Ramp-Up schools differed from those offered by comparison schools, whether staff in Ramp-Up schools engaged in more college-oriented activity, and whether Ramp-Up schools in 2014/15 were able to implement the program adequately by consortium standards. The study's main findings are: (1) After a single year of implementation, there were no statistically significant differences on self-reported goal striving or commitment to college scores or on likelihood of completing the FAFSA and submitting at least one college application between students in Ramp-Up schools and students in comparison schools; (2) Ramp-Up schools and comparison schools offered the same types of supplemental college-readiness supports; (3) Staff in Ramp-Up schools engaged in more college-readiness activity than did staff in comparison schools. Students in Ramp-Up schools perceived a greater emphasis among staff on two of the five dimensions of college readiness (admissions readiness and financial readiness) than did students in comparison schools; and (4) When averaged across program components, 96 percent of Ramp-Up schools' implementation scores fell within the range that the program developer classified in advance as adequate. However only 3 of the 25 (12 percent) Ramp-Up schools had adequate scores for all five of Ramp-Up's key components (structural supports, professional development, curriculum delivery, curriculum content, and postsecondary planning tools), suggesting that Ramp-Up schools need to improve implementation if they hope to produce the program's intended impacts. The following are appended: (1) Ramp-up program history; (2) Methods; and (3) Detailed results.
ERIC DescriptorsCollege Applicants, College Readiness, Fidelity, Goal Orientation, High School Students, Measures (Individuals), Middle School Students, Program Effectiveness, Program Implementation, School Guidance
Midwest | Publication Type: Impact Study | Publication
Date: March 2017