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College success for all students: An investigation of early warning indicators of college readiness

Dissertation
Author: Denise Davis
Abstract:
The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine early warning indicators of college readiness among early college high school students at selected Texas institutions of higher education. Participants in this study included 134 of the class of 2010 from two early college high schools. The graduates were 86% Hispanic, 8% African American, 3% White, 2% Asian, 1% American Indian and 72% economically disadvantaged. A causal-comparative research design using multiple regression analysis of the data collected revealed that each one unit increase in world history was associated with a .470 ( p < .05) increase in college GPA, while each one unit increase in Algebra I was associated with a .202 (p < .05) increase. Therefore, student grades in high school Algebra I and world history were the strongest statistically significant indicators that a student will maintain a 2.5 college GPA during the first year of college. According to the early warning indicators, students who maintain a grade of A or B in Algebra I are 10 times more likely to be college ready while having a 78% chance of maintaining a 2.5 or better in college courses. Further, the findings from this study found no significant relationship between TAKS assessment, socioeconomic status, gender or ethnicity and a student's ability to maintain a 2.5 or higher college GPA. Based on the findings from this study, the author recommends an examination of the high school curriculum with the goal of ensuring that students gain competency in courses that indicate college readiness.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................. iii

LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................ vi

LIST OF FIGURES ......................................................................................................... vii

Chapters

1. INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................... 1 Education Transformation Movement ............................................. 2 College Ready................................................................................. 3 College Readiness Initiatives .......................................................... 5 Problem Statement ......................................................................... 7 Purpose of the Study ....................................................................... 7 Research Question ......................................................................... 7 Significance of the Study ................................................................. 7 Definitions of Terms ........................................................................ 8 Limitations ....................................................................................... 9 Delimitation ................................................................................... 10

2. LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................... 11 Indicators of Post-Secondary Success .......................................... 11 K-16 Initiatives............................................................................... 15 Data Driven Data Decision Making (DDDM) ................................. 18 Predictive Data Growth Models ..................................................... 19 Theoretical Framework ................................................................. 23 Data Comprehensive Analysis Tool (DCAT™).............................. 25 Literature Summary ....................................................................... 27

3. METHODOLOGY .................................................................................... 28 Participants ................................................................................... 28 Dependent Variable ...................................................................... 30 Independent Variables .................................................................. 30

v

Procedures/Data Analysis ............................................................. 31

4. RESULTS ................................................................................................ 33 Descriptive Statistics ..................................................................... 33 Correlation Results ........................................................................ 39 Regression Analysis ...................................................................... 43 DCAT™ Reporting Tool ................................................................ 46 Conclusion .................................................................................... 46

5. DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ............................................................................ 47 Discussion of Findings .................................................................. 47 Implications for Practice ................................................................ 53 Recommendations for Future Study .............................................. 57 Conclusion .................................................................................... 57

REFERENCES .............................................................................................................. 75

vi

LIST OF TABLES

Page

1. Demographic Description of Students in School A and B ................................... 29 2. Descriptive Statistics of High School Core Subjects ........................................... 35 3. Descriptive Statistics High School and College Cumulative College GPA and Credits ................................................................................................................ 37 4. Descriptive Statistics of TAKS Assessment Data ............................................... 38 5. Descriptive Statistics Attendance ....................................................................... 39 6. Correlation Results of College Success for School A ......................................... 41 7. Correlation Results of College Success for School B ......................................... 42 8. Multiple Regression Model of College Readiness Indicators in School A ........... 44 9. Multiple Regression Model of College Readiness Indicators in School B ........... 45

vii

LIST OF FIGURES Page 1. Random-effect growth module: The on track/off track formula ........................... 55

1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION A recent ACT report (2009b) indicated that approximately 23% of high school graduates who took the ACT assessment were prepared for college upon graduating from high school in the 2008-2009 academic year. The report suggests that too many students, especially minority students, graduate without the necessary skills for success in college. While an increase in enrollment in higher education has occurred in the United States, research findings show that 42% of incoming freshmen at 2-year colleges and 28% at 4-year institutions lack the necessary academic skills to enroll in entry level college courses without first enrolling in remedial courses (Hart & Lee, 2008; Writ, 2004). Prior research has indicated that enrollment in remedial courses not only extends the time for a student to graduate from college, but becomes costly to both higher education institutions and students, with costs exceeding $1 billion annually (Strong American Schools, 2008). The notion of students enrolled in remedial courses begins to question the quality of secondary schools and the purpose of the high school diploma. More succinctly, what do high school diplomas represent if students are not prepared for college-level courses or entry level jobs? While there are those who argue that schools must do more than prepare students academically, Martinez and Klopott (2005) revealed that reform efforts are currently underway across the nation focusing on identifying not only academic behaviors but also on identifying social behavior as an early indicator of college readiness. Tools used to make this identification include Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID), First Things First (FTF), High Schools That Work, Gaining Early

2 Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and small learning environments. Due to national concerns with college readiness, the primary objective of our secondary education system should be to provide all students with the necessary academic skills and activities designed to help them succeed beyond high school whether it is through college or the workforce (Conley, 2010).

Education Transformation Movement Throughout American history, education scholars have conducted studies in an attempt to predict the future implications of higher education (Goldstein, 2006). Focusing on college readiness (ACT, 2008a; BGMF, 2009b), the objectives of these research efforts have included identifying ways to provide opportunities for not only access, but also attainment of a quality postsecondary education (DOE, 2006). College access and higher educational attainment has become a national priority as evidenced by President Obama who addressed the United States Congress on February 24, 2009 with the following vision and challenge for higher education: In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a pre-requisite. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career. (Obama, 2009)

From the early 1980s, with the publishing of the landmark report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, 1983, the foundation for current education reform efforts, (DOE, 2008a) through the 21 st century, policy makers and educators continue to agree on the necessity of empowering all students with the essential knowledge and skills not only to succeed in high school, but also to increase access

3 and maintain persistence in college and success in the workplace.

College Ready Common newspaper headlines in America feature such titles as: “Many Graduates Not Ready for College Work,” “State Reports Shows Many Students Are Not Ready for College,” and “Survey: High School Fails to Engage Students” (Hegarty, 2002; Ngowi, 2008; Sanoff, 2005). Realizing the current crisis in education, government agencies and educational partners are focusing on a common goal of improving the education systems, resulting in more students prepared for college. For example, P-16 Initiatives began in the 1990s focus on creating programs that provide a seamless education transition from preschool to post-secondary (Krueger, 2006; Tinto & Pusser, 2006). The challenge facing such initiatives and policies focused on post secondary education reform is determining just what measures provide indicators of whether or not a high school graduate is college ready. College readiness has been defined as “the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in an entry-level college course from a post secondary institution that offers a baccalaureate degree or transfers to a baccalaureate program without remediation” (Achieve, 2009a; ACT, 2009; BGMF, 2009a; College Board, 2008; THECB, 2008; Conley, 2007; TEA, 2007). David Conley (2007), founder of Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) who studies issues relating to college readiness, goes further when he defines college success as “completing the entry-level course with a level of proficiency and understanding, which enables the student to move to the next level in the course sequence” (p. 5). Based on

4 the aforementioned definitions of college readiness and success, many American high school students are not prepared for college, according to this definition. With existing legislative policy and the recent challenge from the president of the United States, all levels from preschool to higher education feel the demanding accountability pressure to determine indicators of how all students can be successful in achieving some form of post secondary education regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, language or socioeconomic level (Obama, 2009; DOE, 2006; DOE, 2002). Accountability calls for hard data as evidence that instructional programs are preparing all students with the essentials skills to achieve success in college. Maximizing school data as an informational tool for continuous improvement of school and student performance provides a way to inform policy, management, and instructional changes needed for improved student achievement (Lachat, 2002). With school data readily available and technology continuing to emerge, the challenge to states lies in determining the college-ready indicators that target success in closing the achievement gap, the difference in academic performance between different ethnic groups (SEDL, 2009). Some studies recommend the implementation of data reform using longitudinal database systems within classrooms to provide the essential tools teachers need to effectively track student growth (Dougherty, 2010; ACT, 2008a; ECS, 2002; Massell, 2000). However, the key to the success of data systems requires that all stakeholders in the education system have the ability to access, understand and utilize the data. (DQC, 2009).

5 College Readiness Initiatives In an attempt to accelerate the college readiness reform initiatives, private foundations, educators, policy makers and non-profit organizations are collaborating to create solutions for providing a seamless education transition from K-12 to post- secondary. Secondary school administrators have realized that they must develop a plan of communication on how to revise and improve the college skills necessary for student academic success and productivity after high school graduation. Aligning secondary curriculum, assessments and graduation requirements with college knowledge and skills necessary for student success in entry-level college courses (without remediation) is an approach policy makers should support. This could be a way to ensure all students are successful beyond high school (Conley, 2010; Achieve, 2009b; Roderick, Nagaoka, & Coca, 2009; Conley, 2005). Establishing a set of college readiness standards (CCRS) is the first step toward understanding what knowledge, skills, habits and expectations are needed for students to have to experience success in entry level college courses. American College Testing (ACT), the College Board, the states of Washington and Texas, and the Association of American Universities have developed CCRS, while a national set of standards is in development (Conley, 2010; THECB, 2008; EPIC, n.d.). The American Diploma Project (ADP) Network, which involves 35 states, is collaboratively working to close expectation gaps—an alignment of high school standards to post-secondary expectation. One of the ADP Network’s action plans includes the development of a national set of CCRS standards that are aligned with high school curriculum, assessments and graduation requirements (Achieve, 2009b).

6 The U.S. Department of Education set aside competitive funding for the Race to the Top program to be awarded to states that develop and implement education reform efforts that improve rates of students graduating college ready (Achieve, 2009a). This program was developed in recognition that alignment and development of college and career standards is important for high school graduates to be successful beyond the passing of the state exit exam for graduation. Realizing our nation is in a college-readiness crisis, many education reform efforts have embedded high school strategies targeting student achievement and college preparedness in efforts to increase college success behaviors. For example, many states have increased the number of core courses (4 years of English and 3 years each of math, science and social studies) required for high school graduation. While increasing the quantity of core courses does not guarantee college ready students, that increase is considered to be one of the leading indicators of college preparedness and attainment in schools (Adelman, 2006; Dounay, 2006; Schmeiser, 2006). For reform efforts to be successful, educators, policymakers and administrators must view the education system as one unified system that includes Grades PK-16. They must work to create more fluid movement from high school to community college to four-year college or university. Currently, 63% of the community college students return for the second year while approximately 64% of students complete baccalaureate degrees within six years (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2004). These alarming college persistence to a four-year degree rates reinforce the urgency to transform American education to improving college readiness programs to increase college completion (Krueger & Rainwater, 2003).

7 Problem Statement Many policymakers have implemented innovative programs to ensure the success and opportunities for all students, including first generation and minority students, to attend college. The problem is that school-level teachers and administrators may not have the tools necessary to assess college readiness. In this area, the challenge is providing data (i.e. course grades and state standardized assessment results), to teachers that include early warning indicators of college readiness as well as future college success so that they can help impact change in academic instruction.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to determine early-warning indicators of college readiness among high school graduates using the instrument, Data Comprehensive Analysis Tool (DCAT ™ ). This tool will be used to determine whether or not an individual student is on target for college readiness as early as 6th grade.

Research Question The following research question guides the current study: What are the early warning indicators of college readiness among early college high school students at selected Texas institutions of higher education?

Significance of the Study Studies have shown that in Texas community colleges, more than 10,000 students have enrolled in remediation courses (Saxon & Boylan, 2001). The enrollment numbers in remediation courses is on the rise. Researchers agree that one factor

8 contributing to this issue is high school students who are academically unprepared for college or entry level employment positions. Results from this study can provide policy makers, local school districts, and higher education institutions with additional information of early warning indicators of college for success beyond high school. Studying the relationship between high school GPA, year-end course grades, attendance and TAKS assessments and gender, race, and socioeconomic status also provides additional information for colleges and universities to address with students who enroll in college unprepared and to identify potential at-risk college students. The findings could potentially assist middle school and high school teachers and campus administrators in data driven decision-making when determining interventions for individual students in keeping them on track for college readiness for all students.

Definitions of Terms For the purpose of this study the following definitions were considered: College readiness for this study is the operational definition used by David Conley (2007), “level of preparation a student needs in order to enroll and succeed in college - without remediation - in a credit-bearing general education course at a postsecondary institution that offers a baccalaureate degree or transfer to a baccalaureate program” (p. 5). Early warning indicators of college readiness are a set of measurable indicators related to college readiness that can be tracked regularly over time at local and district school levels (Bryant & Walsh, 2004).

9 College success is defined as the student completing the first year of college with an overall 2.5 GPA and persisting in college to the second year (ACT, 2007). This study focuses on the 2.5 GPA as the definition for the future of college success. Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) is the state assessment program mandated by the 76 th Texas legislature. TAKS assesses the student’s knowledge of the state curriculum in Grades 3-9 reading; Grades 4 and 7 writing; Grade 10 and exit level English language arts; Grades 3-10 and exit level mathematics; Grades 5, 8, 10, and exit level science; and Grades 8, 10, and exit level social studies. Texas requires students to pass all 4 sections of the exit level assessments in order to graduate from a Texas public high school (Texas Education Agency, 2010).

Limitations Originally, the study was to include 5 early college high schools in the State of Texas. The data collected from 3 of the 5 campuses were incomplete, thus these early college high schools were excluded from the study. Therefore, this study is limited by the fact that the findings may not be generalizable beyond the selected early college high schools and the Texas higher education institutions, as was the original intent, due to the sample size. An additional limitation is that student ethnicity population is not diverse so the findings cannot be generalizable to all ethnicity groups. The schools collect and report the data to the Texas High School Project which does not allow for verification of accuracy.

10 Delimitation The sample was limited to students enrolled in early college high schools in Texas. Therefore, the results cannot be generalized to other early college high school in the nation.

11 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW This review focuses on literature and research that explores post-secondary success indicators; K-16 education reform initiatives; data-driven decision making implementation; and predictive growth models. All of these topic areas explore the importance of early warning indicators in predicting college readiness to student success beyond high school.

Indicators of Post-Secondary Success Research conducted by Jobs for the Future (JFF; Hoffman, Vargas, Venezia & Miller, 2007) and Adelman (2006) regarding college readiness consistently shows that a rigorous high school core curriculum is one of the strongest factors to ensure college success without remediation. The results from their studies illustrate significant evidence that middle school math grades, even as low as 6 th grade, are plausible early academic indicators among high school graduates that predict the likelihood of college freshmen taking remedial courses in mathematics. In addition, Edmonds (2010) conducted an experimental study comparing student outcomes in college prep course taking of early college high school and traditional high school students and the impact on success in college. She found that students not completing Algebra I by the end of the 9 th grade year found it harder to complete college prep courses which significantly impacted their success in college. ACT studies (2008a) have yielded similar results, suggesting that the higher level of math courses taken in high school have a positive impact on college readiness and student success. The positive effects of taking higher

12 level math courses at an earlier age have led to the less likely need for remediation courses in college and a higher GPA in core college courses. While taking more rigorous math courses revealed promising evidence of postsecondary success, disappointing evidence from ACT’s college readiness programs show that only 1 out of 10 8 th grade students are on target to experience college success (ACT, 2008c). This means 90% of 8 th graders do not enter high school with the necessary knowledge and skills to eventually even graduate from high school. Other data illustrate the importance of academic intervention beginning during middle school years if American young people are to have a chance to graduate “College ready, career ready, and life ready” (ACT, 2008b; Texas High School Project, 2010). Hersh (2009) and Wolk (2009) hold that America must realize we as a nation are at risk when it comes to education. Elementary and secondary education together builds the foundation that determines the readiness and success of students’ future in college. ACT (2008b) research on middle school students shows that college readiness have a strong impact on whether or not students will graduate on time from high school and a positive impact of whether they will be on target to be ready for college-level work. Further, studies conducted by ACT (2006a) show students who are behind in reading in middle school will most likely never catch up. Unrealistic expectations often set up the transitioning 8 th graders for failure when they enter high school without the necessary knowledge and skill sets for success. Offering students an opportunity of a rigorous curriculum from Grades 6-12 demonstrates to be one of the single most proven factors of college success of students regardless of gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. The earlier K-12 education

13 initiatives begin identifying, implementing and aligning college preparation strategies and interventions which allows a seamless transition from middle school to college for all students (ACT, 2008b). In the past decade, student performance in rigorous secondary courses as it relates to GPA/class rank has moved to the forefront as a leading indicator of college preparedness by many higher education institutions as admission criteria. GPA/class rank is not always an indicator of student success when high school salutatorians and valedictorians enroll in college and need remedial courses (Conley, 2010; Detroit Free Press, 2010). This example shows evidence that high schools need the capability to identify the early warning indicators of college readiness for entry-level college courses before graduation. More succinctly, the primary goal of high schools’ should be to ensure students’ academic success in college, not just access. Another limitation of using GPA/class rank as an indicator of post-secondary readiness is the problem of compression of grades or weighting of particular courses. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP; DOE, 2007) conducted a high school transcript study in 2005 which found students to be more prepared for college according to the high school transcripts in 2005 than in 1990, but the variation can be attributed to grade inflation and changes in grading standards. Colleges also use achievement tests such as ACT and SAT to determine the student’s cognitive ability, basic skill, content knowledge, and core academic skills (Roderick, Nagaoka & Coca, 2009). A study of college access and success by ACT (2009) indicated the higher the score on the ACT assessment the more likely the student possessed the necessary college readiness skills. Sawyer’s (2008) ACT report

14 in 2009 revealed that only 20% of the ACT-tested high school graduates were eligible to enroll in entry-level college courses according to their ACT scores. In an effort to track college preparedness, ACT has developed two assessments, EXPLORE and PLAN to be used in 8 th and 10 th grade as early indictors for college readiness. The College Board’s SAT assessment purpose also measures a student’s potential success in college. A validity test of the SAT (2008) by the College Board indicated a strong correlation to predicting first year college grades. While most agree that ACT and SAT assessments are good indicators of college preparedness, other researchers and educators oppose the view that the ACT or SAT is a good determiner of success beyond the first year (FairTest, 2007). Conley (2010) views the value of ACT and SAT assessments as a useful source of college preparedness. The problem with these two national assessments is that they are not aligned to the states’ content and standards. Conley (2007/2010) and other education reformists affirm that indicators of college readiness that include content knowledge is important for student success in college, but a lack of college knowledge skills or awareness of college survival skills can cause failure for many during their first year of college. These non-academic and social factors such as motivation, self-discipline, engagement, and self-efficacy also play an important role and influence on a student’s preparedness and success in college. Astin’s (1993) I-E-O (input-environment-outcome) impact model aligns with this viewpoint. I-E-O model discusses how the input factors, academic and social experiences brought to college, have a direct correlation to the student’s involvement and success in college (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Mastery of study skills is an integral component for college success. Studies conducted by ACT (2007) reveal

15 students who spend more quality time engaged in schoolwork show a higher potential of academic achievement. Other findings have shown a positive correlation between student engagement and academic achievement (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris 2004). The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) (Peak & National Center for Education Statistics, Office of Educational Research and Improvement,1996) reported U.S. 8 th graders spend more time after school watching television than engaged in homework, which was found to have a negative impact on their academic achievement. Kuh (2007) holds that for the odds to ever improve in closing the achievement gap and improving college preparedness, it is becoming increasingly important to focus the priority on developing students’ precollege study and behavioral skills associated with higher education success. Alone, “non-academic” factors such as motivation and engagement will not guarantee a student’s success in college, but findings by Tinto and Pusser (1996) and Astin (1993) suggest that these factors strongly contribute to a student’s academic achievement and persistence (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). An ACT (2004b) research study found non-academic factors; academic self-confidence and achievement motivation have a positive correlation to the student’s college GPA. The recommendations from this study suggested that postsecondary institutions design and develop programs that incorporate academic and nonacademic components to address the needs of the whole student.

K-16 Initiatives Predicting college readiness through K-16 alignment initiatives provides an

16 avenue for improving college success. K-12 education reform initiatives focusing on improving the seamless transition from high school to college should prepare students to be academically, socially, and psychologically sound for the first year of college. Students entering college with these cognitive strategies developed are more likely to experience post-secondary success. Studies by Conley (2010) and Van de Water and Gordon-Krueger (2002) have found that higher education faculty expresses students too often that are unsuccessful in college when these behaviors have not been developed. In the past decade, many states have passed P-16 legislation in an effort to identify the indicators to improve student achievement and college preparedness, but more research is still needed on the impact and what has worked through these projects (Van de Water et al., 2002). Some states have strategically focused on college preparedness in an effort to increase college attainment rates. Even with these college readiness policies, improvements in college success has not increased based on the percentage of students still required to enroll in remedial courses (Callan, Finney, Kirst, Usdan & Venezia, 2006). A dual enrollment program is an example of a K-16 initiative where many state policymakers have observed a positive impact on college success. Dual enrollment programs allow students who have often not been considered “college bound” an opportunity to access the college experience. Dual enrollment allows the high school student to receive credit for the course at the college and high school. Dual enrollment not only benefits students, but also allows schools to monitor their college progress and provide interventions, if necessary, to ensure success. Researchers such as Conley (2010) and Hughes (2008) support the idea that dual enrollment students often

17 experience increase in motivation; decrease remediation in college; increase student engagements; and an eased transition into post-secondary status. A review of the literature provides many examples of students participating in dual enrollment programs that show a positive correlation to students’ participation and success in postsecondary endeavors after high school. The findings included: positive impact on male and low socio-economic students; students more likely to graduate from high school; enroll in college full time; persistence in college to 2 nd year; and higher GPAs (Hughes, 2008; Swanson, 2008; Hartman, 2007; Adelman, 2006; Bailey, Hughes & Karp, 2002). While findings from studies by Joni Swanson (2008) that dual enrollment programs have shown a positive correlation to college success. Dual credit programs are the foundation for many innovative college readiness programs such as the early college high school initiative, a blended high school and college model focused on supportive and rigorous curriculum to create a seamless transition between the high school and college experience for the underrepresented student in higher education (THSP, 2010; Nodine, 2009). Postsecondary preparation studies often target the examination of high school students’ college readiness as it relates to attending a four-year institution not to community college goers. According to Cohen (2003), more than 300,000 of the 2.2 million students who begin college each year start their post-secondary career at a community college and then transfer to a four-year institution. For community college students to be successful as a transfer student at a four year university indicators of college preparedness for success at the university must be determined and an action plan established to ensure persistence and degree attainment. Community college

Full document contains 78 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine early warning indicators of college readiness among early college high school students at selected Texas institutions of higher education. Participants in this study included 134 of the class of 2010 from two early college high schools. The graduates were 86% Hispanic, 8% African American, 3% White, 2% Asian, 1% American Indian and 72% economically disadvantaged. A causal-comparative research design using multiple regression analysis of the data collected revealed that each one unit increase in world history was associated with a .470 ( p < .05) increase in college GPA, while each one unit increase in Algebra I was associated with a .202 (p < .05) increase. Therefore, student grades in high school Algebra I and world history were the strongest statistically significant indicators that a student will maintain a 2.5 college GPA during the first year of college. According to the early warning indicators, students who maintain a grade of A or B in Algebra I are 10 times more likely to be college ready while having a 78% chance of maintaining a 2.5 or better in college courses. Further, the findings from this study found no significant relationship between TAKS assessment, socioeconomic status, gender or ethnicity and a student's ability to maintain a 2.5 or higher college GPA. Based on the findings from this study, the author recommends an examination of the high school curriculum with the goal of ensuring that students gain competency in courses that indicate college readiness.