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College and career readiness
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
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
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
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
This study provides a first look at how student college- and career-readiness have progressed in the early years of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation. It is motivated by concern that changes triggered by the standards transition might be disruptive to student learning in the short run, even when those changes may become beneficial once fully implemented. Using longitudinal administrative data from Kentucky, an early adopter of the CCSS, we followed three cohorts of students from the end of the 8th grade to the end of the 11th grade and found that students exposed to the CCSS—including students in both high- and low-poverty schools—made faster progress in learning than similar students who were not exposed to the standards. Although it is not conclusive whether cross-cohort improvement was entirely attributable to the standards reform, we found that students made large gains in proficiency in the years immediately before and after the transition. Additionally, we found student performance in subjects that adopted CCSS-aligned curriculum framework experienced larger, more immediate improvement than student performance in subjects that carried over last-generation curriculum framework.
Citation: Zeyu Xu, Kennan Cepa (2015). Getting College and Career Ready During State Transition Toward the Common Core State Standards. CALDER Working Paper No. 127
We study a popular dual enrollment program in Washington State using a new administrative database linking high school and postsecondary enrollments. Conditional on prior high school performance and basic demographic and economic covariates, dual enrollment students are more likely to attend any college, but they are no more likely to attend college full-time and are less likely to attend a four-year college. Supplementary analyses suggest selection on pretreatment college enrollment plans explains some of the initial diversionary effect of dual enrollment. Finally, we consider the role of common data limitations in interpreting results of dual enrollment studies.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, James Cowan (2013). How Much of a “Running Start” do Dual Enrollment Programs Provide Students?. CALDER Working Paper No. 92
In 2002/03, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools initiated a broad program of accelerating entry into algebra coursework. The proportion of moderately-performing students taking 8th grade algebra increased from less than half to nearly 90%, then reverted to baseline levels, in the span of just six age cohorts. We use this policy-induced variation to infer the impact of accelerated entry into algebra on student performance in math courses as students progress through high school. Students affected by the acceleration initiative scored significantly lower on end-of-course tests in Algebra I, and were either no more likely or significantly less likely to pass standard follow-up courses, Geometry and Algebra II, on a college-preparatory timetable. We also find that the district assigned teachers with weaker qualifications to Algebra I classes in the first year of the acceleration, but this reduction in teacher quality accounts for only a small portion of the overall effect.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, Jacob Vigdor (2012). The Aftermath of Accelerating Algebra: Evidence from a District Policy Initiative. CALDER Working Paper No. 69