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High school graduation rates in the United States are at an all-time high, yet many of these graduates are deemed not ready for postsecondary coursework when they enter college. This study examines the short-, medium-, and long-term effects of remedial courses in middle school using a regression discontinuity design. While the short-term test score benefits of taking a remedial course in English language arts in middle school fade quickly, I find significant positive effects on the likelihood of taking college credit-bearing courses in high school, college enrollment, enrolling in more selective colleges, persistence in college, and degree attainment.
Citation: Umut Özek (2021). The Effects of Middle School Remediation on Postsecondary Success: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Florida. CALDER Working Paper No. 258-0921
We use statewide administrative data from Missouri to document the prevalence of Industry Recognized Credential (IRC) programs in public high schools and understand the characteristics of students who complete IRCs. We show that 9 percent of Missouri students complete an IRC during their senior year of high school. IRC completers have lower achievement and are more likely to be disadvantaged along several measurable dimensions relative to their peers who complete analog college-ready programs, on average. Noting these average relationships, there is substantial heterogeneity among individual IRCs in terms of the types of students served: some IRCs attract students with high test scores who mostly go on to attend college, whereas others serve low-scoring students who mostly forego college. There is strong gender segregation across individual IRCs that aligns with gender segregation across occupations in the labor market.
Citation: Joshua Eagan, Cory Koedel (2021). Career Readiness in Public High Schools: An Exploratory Analysis of Industry Recognized Credentials. CALDER Working Paper No. 257-0921
A number of school districts and states have implemented transition intervention programs designed to help high school students graduate ready for college. This study estimates the effectiveness of a transition program implemented statewide in Kentucky for high school seniors called Targeted Interventions (TI). Using 11 years of linked panel data, this study tracks the college progression of seven cohorts of students as they move from high school into college. Using a difference-in-regression discontinuity design, we estimate the program’s impact on college credit attainment and transfer as well as the extent to which the program has helped reshape pathways through college. We find that the TI program significantly increased the likelihood that students would take at least 15 credits during the first term in college, a key measure that has been shown to be predictive of college completion. These early effects, however, do not translate into statistically significant impacts on the likelihood of transfers from a 2-year to a 4-year college, or the likelihood of earning enough credits to graduate from college. We discuss some possible explanations for why the TI program did not lead to observable improvements in college transfer or credit accumulation.
Citation: Zeyu Xu, Benjamin Backes, Dan Goldhaber (2021). Transition Intervention in High School and Pathway Through College. CALDER Working Paper No. 255-0821
Testing students and using test information to hold schools and, in some cases, teachers accountable for student achievement has arguably been the primary national strategy for school improvement over the past decade and a half. Tests are also used for diagnostic purposes, such as to predict students at-risk of dropping out of high school. But there is policy debate about the efficacy of this usage, in part because of disagreements about whether tests are an important schooling outcome. We use panel data from three states – North Carolina, Massachusetts and Washington State – to investigate how accurate early test scores are in predicting later high school outcomes: 10th grade test achievement, the probability of taking advanced math courses in high school, and graduation. We find 3rd grade tests predict all of these outcomes with a high degree of accuracy and relatively little diminishment from using 8th grade tests. We also find evidence that using a two-stage model estimated on separate cohorts (one predicting 8th grade information using 3rd grade information, and another predicting high school outcomes with 8th grade information) only slightly diminishes forecast accuracy. Finally, the use of machine learning techniques increases accuracy of predictions over widely used linear models, but only marginally.
Working Paper 235-0520 was originally released in May 2020. This is an updated version, released August 2021.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Malcolm Wolff, Timothy Daly (2021). Assessing the Accuracy of Elementary School Test Scores as Predictors of Students’ High School Outcomes. CALDER Working Paper No. 235-0821-2
We use rich administrative microdata from Missouri to examine the potential to expand and diversify the production of STEM degrees at universities by tapping into the population of community college students. We find that the scope for expansion is modest, even at an upper bound, because most community college students have academic qualifications that make them unlikely to succeed in a STEM field at a university. We also find there is almost no scope for community college students to improve the racial/ethnic diversity of four-year STEM degree recipients. We conclude that it will be challenging to expand and diversify STEM degree production at universities with interventions targeted toward community college students.
Citation: Cheng Qian , Cory Koedel (2020). The Potential for Community College Students to Expand and Diversify University Degree Production in STEM Fields . CALDER Working Paper No. 244-1020
This study adds to the currently limited evidence base on the efficacy of interventions targeting non-college-ready high school students by examining the impact of Kentucky’s Targeted Interventions (TI) program. We focus on interventions that students received under TI in the senior year of high school based on their 11th grade ACT test scores. Using difference-in-regression discontinuity and difference-in-difference designs with seven cohorts of 11th grade students, we find that, for an average per-student cost of about $600, TI significantly reduces the likelihood that students enroll in remedial course in both 2- and 4-year postsecondary institutions by 5–10 percentage points in math and 3–4 percentage points in English. These effects are similar among students who are eligible for free-or reduced-price lunch, Black and Hispanic students, students with remediation needs in multiple subjects, and students in lower-performing schools. Evidence also shows that TI increases the likelihood that students enroll in and pass college math before the end of the first year by four percentage points in 4-year universities. However, little evidence exists for TI affecting credit accumulation or persistence.
This paper was published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis in August 2021 and can be found here.
Citation: Zeyu Xu, Benjamin Backes, Amanda Oliveira, Dan Goldhaber (2020). Targeted Interventions in High School: Preparing Students for College. CALDER Working Paper No. 232-0220
We describe the postsecondary transitions of students taking CTE courses in high school using administrative data on one cohort of high school graduates in Washington State. Conditional on observable characteristics, CTE concentrators—high school graduates who complete at least four CTE credits—are about 4 percentage points less likely to enroll in college than other high school graduates. However, CTE students are significantly more likely to enroll in and complete vocational programs, especially in certificate programs in applied STEM and public safety fields. Among students not enrolled in college, CTE students are also more likely to obtain full-time employment—and to work more intensively—within the first three years following high school graduation. Although the improvements in employment outcomes do not offset reductions in college enrollment, the higher completion rates of vocational credentials among CTE concentrators indicate some important positive outcomes for this population.
Citation: James Cowan, Dan Goldhaber, Harry Holzer, Natsumi Naito, Zeyu Xu (2019). Career and Technical Education in High School and Postsecondary Pathways in Washington State. CALDER Working Paper No. 224-1119
Indiana, Oklahoma, and Washington have programs designed to address college enrollment and completion gaps by offering a promise of state-based college financial aid to low-income middle school students in exchange for making a pledge to do well in high school, be a good citizen, not be convicted of a felony, and apply for financial aid to college. Using a triple-difference specification, we find that Washington’s College Bound Scholarship shifted enrollment from out-of-state to in-state colleges at which the scholarship could be used. While we find suggestive evidence that the program increased the likelihood of attending a postsecondary institution and attaining a bachelor’s degree within five years of high school, we discuss why the program might be more successful if it did not require students to sign a pledge.
This paper has been published in Education Finance and Policy and can be found here, October 2021.
Citation: Mark C. Long, Dan Goldhaber, Trevor Gratz (2019). Washington’s College Bound Scholarship Program and its Effect on College Entry, Persistence, and Completion. CALDER Working Paper No. 221-0919
CALDER Policy Brief No. 17-0519
• Many community college students do not complete any credentials, or earn credentials with low labor market value, which leads to significant default rates despite quite moderate debts.
• Many students at community colleges, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are plagued by weak academic preparation and financial pressures to work full time, as well as too little information about their own academic skills and what the labor market rewards.
• Outcomes among community college students are also limited by too few institutional resources, and likely by too few incentives to respond to the labor market and too little guidance for students as well.
• More resources for community colleges in general, as well as a limited number of specific community college support or job training programs, have strong positive impacts on student and worker outcomes, although many others remain untested or unproven.
Citation: Harry Holzer, Zeyu Xu (2019). Community Colleges and Pathways to the Labor Market. CALDER Working Paper No.
In this paper we estimate the impacts of the “pathways” chosen by community college students—in terms of desired credentials and fields of study, as well as other choices and outcomes along the paths—on the attainment of credentials with labor market value. We focus on the extent to which there are recorded changes in students’ choices over time, whether students make choices informed by their chances of success and by labor market value of credentials, and the impacts of choices on outcomes. We find that several characteristics of chosen pathways, such as field of study and desired credential as well as early “momentum,” affect outcomes. Student choices of pathways are not always driven by information about later chances of success, in terms of probabilities of completing programs and attaining strong earnings. Students also change pathways quite frequently, making it harder to accumulate the credits needed in their fields. Attainment of credentials with greater market value could thus likely be improved by appropriate guidance and supports for students along the way, and perhaps by broader institutional changes as well.
This paper was published in Community College Review in April 2021 and can be found here.
Citation: Harry Holzer, Zeyu Xu (2019). Community College Pathways for Disadvantaged Students . CALDER Working Paper No. 218-0519
Career academies serve an increasingly wide range of students. This paper examines the contemporary profile of students entering career academies in a large, diverse school district and estimates causal effects of participation in one of the district’s well-regarded academies on a range of high school and college outcomes. Exploiting the lottery-based admissions process of this technology-focused academy, we find that academy enrollment increases the likelihood of high school graduation by about 8 percentage points and boosts rates of college enrollment for males but not females. Analysis of intermediate outcomes suggests that effects on attendance and industry-relevant certification at least partially mediate the overall high school graduation effect.
JEL Codes: I21, I25
WP 176 was revised in August 2018. It was originally released in January 2017.
Citation: Steven Hemelt, Matthew Lenard, Colleen Paeplow (2018). Building Bridges to Life after High School: Contemporary Career Academies and Student Outcomes (Update). CALDER Working Paper No. 176
We use longitudinal data on high school students in Washington State to assess the relationships between English Language Arts (ELA) teacher value added and other qualifications and the high school and postsecondary outcomes of their students. We also investigate whether these relationships differ for students with and without disabilities. We find that students assigned to 10th grade ELA teachers with higher value added have better test scores, are more likely to graduate on-time, and are more likely to attend and graduate from a four-year college than observably similar students assigned to 10th grade ELA teachers with lower value added. We also find that many of these relationships vary for students with and without disabilities, as 10th grade ELA teacher value added is more positively predictive of on-time graduation and four-year college attendance for students without disabilities, but more positively predictive of two-year college attendance and employment within two years of graduation for students with disabilities. In contrast to value added, other teacher characteristics like experience, degree level, endorsement area, and licensure test scores do not consistently predict better outcomes for students with or without disabilities.
Citation: Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber, Trevor Gratz, Kristian Holden (2018). High School English Language Arts Teachers and Postsecondary Outcomes for Students With and Without Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No. 199-0718-1
We use statewide administrative data from Missouri to examine the role of high schools in explaining student sorting to colleges and majors at 4-year public universities. We develop a “preparation and persistence index” (PPI) for each university-by-major cell in the Missouri system that captures dimensions of selectivity and rigor and allows for a detailed investigation of sorting. Our analysis shows that students’ high schools predict the quality of the initial university, as measured by PPI, conditional on their own academic preparation, and that students from lower-SES high schools systematically enroll at lower-PPI universities. However, high schools offer little explanatory power over major placements within universities and correspondingly, there are not meaningful differences in the index-based quality of these placements by high-school SES.
WP 165 was revised in April 2018. It was originally released August 2016.
Citation: Rajeev Darolia, Cory Koedel (2018). High Schools and Students’ Initial Colleges and Majors. CALDER Working Paper No. 165
We study the effects of access to high school math and science courses on postsecondary STEM enrollment and degree attainment using administrative microdata from Missouri. Our data panel includes over 140,000 students from 14 cohorts entering the 4-year public university system. The effects of high school course access are identified by exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in course offerings within high schools over time. We find that differential access to high school courses does not affect postsecondary STEM enrollment or degree attainment. Our null results are estimated precisely enough to rule out moderate impacts.
This paper was revised February 2019. It was originally released in February 2018.
Citation: Rajeev Darolia, Cory Koedel, Joyce B. Main, Felix Ndashimye, Junpeng Yan (2018). High School Course Access and Postsecondary STEM Enrollment and Attainment. CALDER Working Paper No. 186
We use longitudinal data on all high school students in Washington State, including postsecondary education and workforce outcomes, to investigate predictors of intermediate and postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. We pay particular attention to career and technical education (CTE) enrollment and the extent of inclusion in general education classrooms, as prior research suggests these factors may be particularly important in influencing the outcomes of students with disabilities. We estimate models that compare students with other students within the same school district, who are receiving special education services for the same disability, and have similar baseline measures of academic performance and other demographic information. We find generally weak relationships between CTE enrollment in any particular grade and intermediate and postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities, though we replicate earlier findings that students with disabilities who are enrolled in a “concentration” of CTE courses have higher rates of employment after graduation than students with disabilities who are similar in other observable ways but are enrolled in fewer CTE courses. We also find consistently strong evidence that students with disabilities who spend more time in general education classrooms experience better outcomes—fewer absences, higher academic performance, higher rates of grade progression and on-time graduation, and higher rates of college attendance and employment—than students with disabilities who are similar in other observable ways but spend less time in general education classrooms.
Citation: Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber, Trevor Gratz, Kristian Holden (2017). Career and Technical Education, Inclusion, and Postsecondary Outcomes for Students With Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No. 177
Indiana, Oklahoma, and Washington each have programs designed to address college enrollment gaps by offering a promise of state-based college financial aid to low-income middle school students in exchange for making a pledge to do well in high school, be a good citizen, not be convicted of a felony, and apply for financial aid to college. Using a triple-difference specification, we estimate the effects of Washington’s College Bound Scholarship program on students’ high school grades, high school graduation, juvenile detention and rehabilitation, and incarceration in state prison during high school or early adulthood. We find insignificant and substantively small or negative effects on these outcomes. These results call into question the rationale for such early commitment programs.
WP 178 was revised in February 2019. It was originally released in June 2017.”
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Mark C. Long, Trevor Gratz, Jordan Rooklyn (2017). Pledging to Do "Good”: An Early Commitment Pledge Program, College Scholarships, and High School Outcomes in Washington State. CALDER Working Paper No. 178
We investigate factors influencing student sign-ups for Washington State’s College Bound Scholarship (CBS) program and consider whether there is scope for the program to change college enrollment expectations. We find that student characteristics associated with signing the scholarship closely parallel characteristics of low-income students who attend 4-year colleges, suggesting that signing the pledge is driven largely by pre-existing expectations of college-going. We also find evidence that student sign-up rates are lower than has been previously reported, which is important given the perception among program administrators that nearly all eligible students sign up.
WP 175 was revised in February 2019. It was originally released in January 2017
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Mark C. Long, Ann E. Person, Jordan Rooklyn (2017). What Factors Predict Middle School Students Sign Up for Washington's College Bound Scholarship Program? A Mixed Methods Evaluation . CALDER Working Paper No. 175
The purpose of this paper is to assess the effects of this increase in the mandated minimum number of math courses. This assessment entails two separate questions. One is whether the policy affected actual course-taking among high school students. In exploring this question, we are attentive to the likelihood that the new standard might have a bigger effect on some groups of students than on others. Another question is whether any such changes in high school course-taking, together with the threat of being denied admission, affected college enrollment patterns or students’ choices or performance once enrolled.
Our findings fall into three groups. First, the evidence is consistent with the expectation that the increased requirements would influence the number of high school math courses taken by at least some students. Throughout our analysis we characterize students by their math aptitude as measured by their performance on the required 8th grade math end of grade test, with performance divided into deciles from low to high. Many students, particularly those at the higher deciles, were already taking four math courses by the time the minimum number was increased, so the new requirement presumably had no direct effect on them. But in eight of the 10 deciles we observed greater-than-expected increases in the share of students who, using the proxy we had (whether a student had taken Algebra II by 11th grade), were in a position to meet the new four-course standard. We cannot prove that these increases were due to the policy, but it is reasonable to think that at least most of them were.
Second are findings related to whether the increase in math courses affected whether students enrolled in one of the state’s public university campuses and, if so, where. Because the increases in math courses were greatest for students with 8th grade math scores in the middle deciles, one might have expected that the branch campuses whose students traditionally come from those deciles would have experienced the biggest increases in enrollment due to the changes in math course taking in high school. Surprisingly, we did not find that. Instead, we find increases in predicted enrollment due to changes in math course taking across all campuses, distributed differently across math achievement deciles. Each branch experienced increases in predicted enrollment, but those increases tended to be for students in the deciles that were already most common at those branches. For the branches that have traditionally drawn from deciles below the median, the newly stimulated enrollments came from those deciles. For the two branches with the highest shares of students from the top deciles before the policy change, the new policy stimulated new enrollment, and it was mainly in those same top deciles. Despite the general tendency before the change for top-decile students to have taken four math courses, many top decile students apparently had not been doing so, especially in school districts that had not pushed such students to do so in the past. Once the policy change was enacted, such districts beefed up their math pathways, causing more top students to take more math. Conceivably, the new requirement caused these top students to consider attending the leading research universities at Chapel Hill or NC State instead of one of the branches closer to their homes.
The third set of findings relate to whether the minimum course requirement affected the behavior of students once they enrolled in one of the branches. Here the results are less broad-based than for the other analyses. We find some evidence that the policy change increased the likelihood that high decile students would major in a STEM field, but reduced the likelihood of low decile students of doing so. Further, we find that the program raised the GPA of students in deciles 8 and 9, but had at most limited effects on four-year graduation rates.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd (2016). Raising the Bar for College Admission: North Carolina’s Increase in Minimum Math Course Requirements. CALDER Working Paper No. 163
Online courses at the college level are growing in popularity, and nearly all community colleges offer online courses (Allen & Seaman, 2015). What is the effect of the expanded availability of online curricula on persistence in the field and towards a degree? We use a model of self-selection to estimate the effect of taking an online course, using region and time variation in Internet service as a source of identifying variation. Our method, as opposed to standard experimental methods, allows us to consider the effect among students who actually choose to take such courses. For the average person, taking an online course has a negative effect on the probability of taking another course in the same field and on the probability of earning a degree. The negative effect on graduation for students who choose to take an online course is stronger than the negative effect for the average student. Community colleges must balance these results against the attractive features of online courses, and institutions may want to consider actively targeting online courses toward those most likely to do well in them.
Citation: Nick Huntington-Klein, James Cowan, Dan Goldhaber (2015). Selection into Online Community College Courses and Their Effects on Persistence. CALDER Working Paper No. 131
Students are typically given a large amount of freedom to choose the level of “curricular dispersion:” the tight focus or lack thereof in the courses they elect to take while in college. There is little evidence about what predicts students’ curricular dispersion, whether it affects later college or labor force outcomes, or, in fact, how to measure curricular dispersion. In this paper we develop a measure of curricular dispersion and use data from Washington State to explore its predictors and associated outcomes. We find that prior dispersion predicts future dispersion but not subsequent changes in college major. We report mixed findings on the associations between curricular dispersion and overall college GPA, the probability of graduation, and early career wages.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, James Cowan, Mark C. Long, Nick Huntington-Klein (2015). College Curricular Dispersion: More Well Rounded or Less Well Trained?. CALDER Working Paper No. 130