WWC review of this study

Commencement day: Six-year effects of a freshman learning community program at Kingsborough Community College.

Sommo, C., Mayer, A. K., Rudd, T., & Cullinan, D. (2012). New York, NY: MDRC.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    1,534
     Students
    , grade
    PS

Reviewed: February 2016

Meets WWC standards without reservations


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Study sample characteristics were not reported.

Reviewed: November 2014

At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

College students;
1,409 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
4
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

Male;
634 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
6

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

Female;
775 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
Access and enrollment outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Enrolled in college

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

college students;
1,534 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
3
More Outcomes

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

college students;
1,534 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
2
Show Supplemental Findings

Enrolled in college

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Female;
837 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Enrolled in college

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Male;
697 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Female;
837 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Male;
697 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
Attainment outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Earned a degree (with 6 years of randomization)

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Six years post randomization

College students;
1,534 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
4
Credit accumulation and persistence outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Regular credits earned

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

College students;
1,534 students

27.70

26.20

No

 
 
3
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Regular credits earned

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

Male;
697 students

26.40

23.50

Yes

 
 
6

Regular credits earned

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

Female;
837 students

28.90

28.50

No

--
Progress in developmental education outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Passed both developmental education tests

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

By the end of the second postprogram semester

College students;
1,534 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
4
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Passed both developmental education tests

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

By the end of the second postprogram semester

Male;
697 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
6

Passed both developmental education tests

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

By the end of the second postprogram semester

Female;
837 students

N/A

N/A

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 55%
    Male: 45%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    New York
  • Race
    Asian
    9%
    Black
    38%
    Other or unknown
    6%
    White
    27%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    20%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    80%

Setting

The study took place at Kingsborough Community College, a large, urban community college in Brooklyn, NY, that is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system.

Study sample

The Opening Doors Learning Communities program recruited students who met the following criteria: 1) first-time incoming freshmen who planned to attend college full time during the day; 2) tested into developmental English (but did not test into English as a Second Language); 3) planned to attend college full time; and 4) between 17–34 years of age. The study initially enrolled students who were aged 18 or older but later enrolled students who were 17 years old with parental consent. Students initially had to report a household income below 250% of the federal poverty level, but this income criterion was also subsequently removed. Students in four career majors (accounting, business, mental health, and early childhood education) were also excluded for the first year of the study because a separate learning community operated for them. After the 2003–04 academic year, students in those career majors could participate in the Opening Doors program because the career learning community program ended. Students who were eligible were given the opportunity to participate in the study; 1,534 students were eligible to participate. Students were randomly assigned to the intervention and comparision conditions. After random assignment, 769 students were in the intervention group and 765 were in the comparison group. Among students in the sample, 55% were female, 38% were Black, 20% were Hispanic, and 27% were White. Seventy-nine percent were between 17–20 years old, 91% reported having no children, 28% indicated that their household was receiving government benefits (such as food stamps or Supplemental Security Income), 74% indicated they were financially dependent on their parents, 36% reported being currently employed, and 47% reported speaking a language other than English in their home.

Intervention Group

The Opening Doors Learning Communities program was organized around an English course, where the course level was determined by the students’ scores on the CUNY reading and writing skills assessment tests administered before enrollment. The English course was linked with two additional courses: an academic course required for the student’s major and a one-credit freshman orientation course. The orientation course was available to all freshmen and teaches time management, study skills, college rules and procedures, and other topics relevant to new students. The three linked courses were taken together by groups of up to 25 students during their first semester in the study. The linked courses usually met one after the other. The Opening Doors Learning Communities operated only during a student’s first semester. Students in the learning communities were also offered other services, including 1) faculty collaboration and instructional practices, 2) enhanced counseling and support services offered by a counselor/case manager, 3) enhanced tutoring for the English course (and, in some cases, the subject matter course), and 4) textbook vouchers for the initial program semester and subsequent winter or summer intersession. Over four semesters, the program included 40 learning communities: 31 with developmental English courses and 9 with college-level English courses. Learning community class sizes varied from 6–25 students, with an average of 17 students per learning community.

Comparison Group

Students assigned to the comparison group were enrolled in classes for which they were eligible or that were required, and they could receive the college’s standard services. In addition, similar to students in the intervention group, students in the comparison group were allowed to register for classes earlier than most freshmen, and they received advice on the registration process from Opening Doors staff.

Outcome descriptions

Researchers reported outcomes at nine points in time: the program semester (i.e., the semester in which students were enrolled in a learning community), the first semester after the program, the second semester after the program, the third semester after the program, 2 years after randomization, 3 years after randomization, 4 years after randomization, 5 years after randomization, and 6 years after randomization. Participation in the learning communities began in fall 2003, spring 2004, fall 2004, and spring 2005. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

According to the study authors, Kingsborough Community College provided 1 hour of reassigned time for faculty to meet about course integration and support for students in learning communities (i.e., each 3-hour course was treated as a 4-hour course for purposes of determing each faculty member’s teaching load). Each learning community also had an assigned tutor who attended the courses, and participating students received $150 textbook vouchers for the 12-week main session and a $75 textbook voucher for the subsequent 6-week winter or summer intersession for the campus bookstore.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Bloom, D., & Sommo, C. (2005). Building learning communities. Early results from the Opening Doors demonstration at Kingsborough Community College. New York: MDRC.

  • Scrivener, S., Bloom, D., LeBlanc, A., Paxson, C., Rouse, C. E., & Sommo, C. (2008). A good start: Two-year effects of a freshmen learning community program at Kingsborough Community College. New York: MDRC.

Reviewed: November 2012

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

High GPA

Opening Doors vs. Business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

Full sample;
1,409 students

0.59

0.54

Yes

 
 
5
Access and enrollment outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Enrolled in any college

Opening Doors vs. Business as usual

Program semester

Full sample;
1,534 students

0.87

0.85

Yes

 
 
3
 
More Outcomes

Registered for any courses

Opening Doors vs. Business as usual

Program semester

Full sample;
1,534 students

0.93

0.91

Yes

 
 
2
 
Attainment outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Earned a degree

Opening Doors vs. Business as usual

Six years post randomization

Full sample;
1,534 students

0.36

0.31

Yes

 
 
5
Credit accumulation and persistence outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Number of regular credits earned

Opening Doors vs. Business as usual

Cumulative program through third postprogram semester

Full sample;
1,534 students

27.70

26.20

Yes

 
 
3
 
Progress in developmental education outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Passed both English tests

Opening Doors vs. Business as usual

Third postprogram semester

Full sample;
1,534 students

0.65

0.60

Yes

 
 
4
 


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 55%
    Male: 45%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    New York
  • Race
    Asian
    9%
    Black
    38%
    Other or unknown
    6%
    White
    27%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    20%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    80%
 

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