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

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

by Elisabeth Davis, Cameron Smither, Bo Zhu and Jennifer Stephan
Characteristics and postsecondary pathways of students who participate in acceleration programs in Minnesota

Acceleration programs are academically challenging courses in which high school students can simultaneously earn credit toward a high school diploma and a postsecondary degree (dual credit). These programs include Advanced Placement courses, concurrent-enrollment courses, Postsecondary Enrollment Options courses (a dual-enrollment program in Minnesota), International Baccalaureate courses, and others. Since the Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act of 1985 (Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act, 2015), policymakers and practitioners in Minnesota have used acceleration programs as a strategy to improve students' college readiness and college success. Despite the widespread use of acceleration programs, little information exists on the types of students and schools that access these programs and on participants' postsecondary pathways, such as whether and where they enroll in college. Members of the Midwest College and Career Success Research Alliance collaborated with Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest to conduct a study that provides a broad description of acceleration programs in Minnesota, including rates of participation, descriptions of student participants, and participants' postsecondary outcomes. The study team obtained and analyzed data from the Minnesota State Longitudinal Education Data System provided by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The study examined student participation rates and success in acceleration programs available to Minnesota high school students and compared college pathways and outcomes between participants and nonparticipants among the 2011 cohort of high school graduates. Key findings included: (1) Forty-eight percent of 2011 Minnesota high school graduates participated in at least one acceleration program, such as Advanced Placement courses, dual-enrollment courses, International Baccalaureate courses, and others. About half of participants in acceleration programs who enrolled in a Minnesota college within two years of high school graduation were awarded at least one dual credit at the college level; (2) Eighty percent of participants in acceleration programs who were awarded dual credit received it from a selective or very selective four-year college; (3) Racial/ethnic minority students and students eligible for the federal school lunch program participated in acceleration programs and were awarded dual credit by the college in which they enrolled at lower rates than their peers; and (4) Participation in acceleration programs was associated with higher rates of enrollment in Minnesota colleges, and regardless of the number of credits awarded by colleges, participation was also associated with college readiness and persistence. The results of this study might point to the contribution of these programs to student outcomes, but more rigorous research is needed to draw a causal inference about the impact of acceleration programs on these outcomes. In addition, these results raise several considerations for educators and policymakers, including the potential importance of expanding opportunities for underrepresented students to enroll in acceleration programs and reexamining state procedures for collecting data in order to classify acceleration programs more comprehensively and document differences between types of programs. Appended are: (1) Literature review; (2) Data sources and methodology; and (3) Additional results.

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