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May 1, 2022

Research Alert / Do Transition-Intervention Programs Really Boost College Readiness?

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      Although many U.S. youth enter a two- or four-year college right after high school, the college completion rate is low—and has barely increased over the last 15 years. A discussion of college completion rates in a study by researchers connected to the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research notes that only 36 percent of two-year college students graduate within three years, and less than 60 percent of four-year college students graduate within six years.
      Low college-completion rates likely reflect deficiencies among high school grads in skills needed to be college-ready. Data indicate that 60 percent of high school graduates aren't fully prepared for college-level coursework, many having skills far below established benchmarks.
      In response, 17 states have introduced some form of statewide high-school-to-college transition-intervention programs. These typically include a screening for college readiness administered in 11th grade; some kind of transition curriculum given throughout 12th grade (and during the regular school day) to students deemed not college-ready; and an exit evaluation. Sometimes postsecondary faculty collaborate with K–12 educators to develop the transition curriculum. In this study, researchers examined how effective Kentucky's statewide transition program, Targeted Interventions (TI), has been in reducing students' need for remedial courses upon entering college.
      Evidence from Kentucky's program is mildly promising. TI reduced participants' enrollment in remedial math courses in college by 8–10 percentage points, among other positive findings. While this is noteworthy, study authors emphasized, "We [did] not find evidence of TI affecting credit accumulation or persistence [in college]."
      Less promising results were found in earlier evaluations of transition-intervention programs in West Virginia and Florida. In the Kentucky-based study, and in a later blog post, the authors suggested that transition interventions could be much more powerful if they began before 12th grade, were offered outside the school day, and included additional instructional time, rather than being substituted for core academic courses.
      References

      Xu, Z., Backes, B., Oliveira, A., & Goldhaber, D. (2021, August 30). Ready for college? Examining the effectiveness of targeted interventions in high school. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

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