Stories from the Field
Leveling the Playing Field: SERVE Study Shows Early Colleges are Reducing Performance Gaps between Minority and Non-Minority Students
One of the most persistent problems in education has been the gap in educational performance between minority and non-minority students. A rigorous experimental study conducted by SERVE Center is showing that early college high schools are closing or even eliminating some of the gaps for core academic outcomes. For example, students in the early college had no gap in the rate of successful completion of English I by the end of 9th grade; both minority and non-minority students successfully completed English I at exactly the same rates. Compare this to the regular high school where the rate of minority students successfully completing English I was 9.2 percentage points lower than the rate of non-minority students.
We see a similar pattern in all of the other core 9th and 10th grade courses for which we have data. For example, the gap for successful completion of Algebra I by the end of 9th grade is 2.1 percentage points in the early college compared to 13.6 percentage points in the regular high school. The chart below shows the gap for these and other core 9th and 10th grade courses.
Why should we care about performance in these courses?
Nowadays, students need some sort of college education to get a good job. These courses are core courses that students need to take to be on track for college. What this shows is that early colleges are leveling the playing field for minority students. Minority students in early college are getting the same opportunities that many non-minority students have had for many years. Through this study, we will follow these students through high school graduation and into college to see whether this model can remove some of other gaps that exist. What are early colleges?
Early colleges are small high schools that blur the line between high school and college. Many of them are located on college campuses. All of them expect that students will graduate with their high school diploma and two years of college credit. The schools in the study are all part of North Carolina’s Early College Initiative. For more information on North Carolina’s work, please visit The North Carolina New Schools Project
. There is also a national initiative, which you can visit at the Early College High School Initiative
. Why should we believe the results of this study?
Staff at SERVE Center conduct research on some of the most important issues in education and we do this in very rigorous ways. This independent study on early colleges was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences and uses an experimental design. Students who applied to the early college were placed in a lottery and students were randomly selected to attend the early college or not to attend. The study then follows both sets of students—those who were randomly selected to attend and those who were not randomly selected to attend. This means that the two groups are the same because they were randomly formed. This also means that information from the study can be used to determine whether the program works. The sample for the analyses reported here include 718 treatment and control students who were in 8 cohorts of students who applied to six early colleges (two of the colleges included students from two years). The analyses will be duplicated with a larger sample this year.
For more information about the study, read A Better 9th Grade: Early Results from an Experimental Study of the Early College High School Model
You can also contact Julie Edmunds
, the study’s director, for more information.