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Attending college and earning a degree is more important than ever before to youth and our society. Our global, knowledge-based economy increasingly requires a workforce with postsecondary education and society as a whole benefits from an educated citizenry (Baum & Ma, 2007). Today's students have aspirations that respond to this, as almost 90% of high school students have plans to attend college (Citation???). However, high college remediation rates indicate that despite their high aspirations, not enough students are equipped with the academic skills needed to succeed in college.
Academic preparation before college and social integration during college are often viewed as integral factors in determining students' college success. Policymakers and administrators alike have looked for innovative methods by which to provide students with these necessary means of support. At present day, one frequently taken approach is to offer programs that provide high school students with exposure to college-level courses (Kirst & Venezia, 2004). Dual enrollment is one type of program that offers opportunities for high school students to engage in college-level coursework, allowing high school students to enroll simultaneously in high school and college. Proponents of dual enrollment assert that these programs provide high school students "greater access to a wider range of rigorous academic and technical courses, savings in time and money on a college degree, promoting efficiency of learning, and enhancing admission to and retention in college" (Kleiner & Lewis, 2005, p.1). In terms of credit, location, course content, and instructor and student characteristics, dual enrollment programs vary substantially across the country (Karp, Bailey, Hughes, & Fermin, 2004). However, the general core tenets amongst the different models of dual enrollment are to challenge high school students with a more rigorous curriculum, to allow students to gain an understanding of the requirements of college-level coursework, and to provide and early opportunity for students to partake in the college experience.
Despite the limited amount of evidence that these programs are meeting their objectives, dual enrollment programs have "exploded" across the country and 71% of all public high schools in the U.S. are participating in such programs (Andrews, 2000, 2001). Barnes (2001) states that the growth of dual enrollment programs is happening faster than quality assurance procedures can be put into place. Despite this, the current climate of higher education demands data driven decisions and quality control. Failing to assess program outcomes could potentially jeopardize the continuation of many dual enrollment programs. As such, it is now more important than ever for dual enrollment programs to prove their worth.
Statement of Purpose
The rising costs and scarcity of revenues in higher education has forced practitioners to find new ways of facilitating the efficient and successful transition of students from high school to college (Barnes, 2001). Dual enrollment programs have increased in popularity in response to this need. However, dual enrollment programs are increasingly critiqued for their lack of assessment practices and subsequent inability to reliably prove their effectiveness and results. This project is in response to this call for assessment. As such, the purpose of this project is to conduct a preliminary outcomes assessment of the Accelerated College Entrance Program, and ultimately create an assessment framework that may be used by this dual enrollment program.
Definition of Terms (To be added)
Limitations (To be added)
Significance of the Project
The Accelerated College Entrance Program at California State University, Sacramento, is amongst many dual enrollment programs that have been implemented in the past twenty years in response to the educational needs of college-bound high school students. However, since its inception in 1985, no formal longitudinal evaluation of the effectiveness of the ACE program has been conducted. Informally, ACE students, parents, high school teachers, and participating Sac State departments praise the program. Despite these accolades, a more rigorous assessment is needed to offer evidence that the time and money spent to operate the ACE program is beneficial.
In the midst of the current budget crisis faced by California State institutions of higher education, many "soft money" programs such as ACE are often considered peripheral to the core mission of the university, and as such, may be on the proverbial "chopping block". While administrators are generally expected to provide evidence that their programs are effective and working for their students, the urgency and pressure to do so has undeniably increased within this current climate. ACE in particular has felt this pressure. This project is in response to an increased demand for program accountability. By means of a preliminary outcomes assessment of a select cohort of ACE students, ACE program administrators will have the opportunity to understand the benefits of their program, as well as examine the areas that may need to be improved upon.
The practical application of this project is to examine the effects of participation in the ACE program and, upon gathering and analyzing program data, create an assessment framework that can be put into place in order to increase program accountability and effectiveness.
Organization of the Project
Chapter Two of this discussion describes why higher education is increasingly crucial for the individual and society, explores concepts of both pre-college preparation and academic and social integration during college as factors affecting student success in higher education, and looks to dual enrollment as an option for providing support to students in both arenas.
The United States finds itself competing in an increasingly challenging world economy (Brown-Ingles, 2003) and the attainment of a post-secondary education is becoming more and more necessary for access to jobs across a wide range of occupations, even for entry-level positions (Bailey, Hughes, & Karp, 2003). Research shows that more than 80% of today's jobs require at least some post-secondary education (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001), yet over the past decade, the United States' completion rates for associate's and bachelor's degree programs have stalled. The competitive edge of the U.S. workforce is slipping. Whereas the United States was once the world leader in offering college opportunity to its residents, several countries have now overtaken the U.S. in this area. The educational attainment of the young workforce in the United States (ages 24 to 34) currently ranks fifth among industrialized nations (Johnson and Sengupta, 2006). Unless the educational achievement of the young population improves, the competitiveness of the U.S. workforce is projected to continually decline over the next decade. It is estimated that by 2020 the United States could face a shortfall of 14 million workers who have the knowledge and skills needed to compete for middle-income jobs in a global economy (Johnson and Sengupta, 2006). This "skills gap" crisis hits close to home for both the California state economy and California institutions of higher education, as it is estimated that come 2025, approximately 41% of all jobs will require not just some postsecondary education, but will demand a college degree (Johnson and Sengupta, 2006). However, it is projected that just 37% of workers in California will have such a degree (Johnson and Sengupta, 2006). If we remain on this course, California will have 1 million fewer college graduates than it needs in the year 2025 (Johnson and Sengupta, 2006).
The research overwhelmingly suggests that a high school diploma is no longer sufficient (Krueger, 2006; Bailey, Hughes, & Karp, 2003; Johnson and Sengupta, 2006), not only for the viability of the U.S. economy, but also the financial survival of its constituents. There is a growing concern that current institutional efforts are insufficient and are not rising to the educational needs of the day (Nunley, Shartle-Galotto, & Smith, 2000). This challenge places United States' educational institutions at a crossroads: we can improve college readiness and completion rates and thereby prepare the workforce for the economic and civic challenges of this generation and the next, or we can continue to allow gaps in educational achievement to undermine our communities' economic prosperity and our nation's global competitiveness. As the value of a college education continues to increase, so does the need for innovative methods of assisting students in successfully transitioning from high school prepared to persist in attaining a college degree.
College Success: Preparation vs. Integration
The gravity of this educational crisis has brought national attention to the question of how to successfully prepare high school students to transition to and succeed in post-secondary education. The focus of such discussions is generally two-fold, addressing issues of both preparation and retention. With regard to preparation, research conducted by the US Department of Education has consistently suggested that an academically intense high school curriculum exhibits strong and positive impacts toward college persistence and degree attainment (Adelman, 1999, 2004, 2006). As for retention, Vincent Tinto's theory of individual departure from institutions of higher education (1993) has provided researchers with an explanatory model of students' departure from college. Unlike Adelman, Tinto places less importance upon attributes preceding postsecondary level entrance, and more emphasis on academic and social experiences during the college years (1993). These differing viewpoints have produced two schools of thought regarding college persistence - those who believe that the knowledge and skills students acquire before college strongly correlate with degree completion, and those who believe that events after matriculation matter most. This review of literature will explore the primary arguments concerning the phenomenon of underprepared students as well as examine the ways that dual enrollment programs have the potential to impact both preparation for and persistence in college.
College Preparation: A need for academic rigor in the high school curriculum
The value of a college degree is not lost on today's high school students, as almost 90% of high school students of all racial and ethnic groups aspire to attend college (Citation???). Almost 60% of high school graduates enroll in college right after high school, and many additional students enroll in college within a few years of high school graduation (Citation???). Gaining admission to college is not the biggest hurdle that high school graduates face. It seems that the more difficult challenge for students is that of becoming academically prepared for college coursework.
High college remediation rates indicate that despite students' high aspirations, not enough are equipped with the academic skills needed to succeed in college. Forty percent of students at four-year institutions and 63% at two-year colleges take remedial education (Venezia, Callan, Finney, Kirst & Usdan, 2005) in not just college-level requirements like foreign language or science, but in the very basics of reading, writing, and high school math (National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001). High remediation rates and the current "skills gap" that our nation faces are often attributed to a lack of curricular rigor and intensity at the secondary level, particularly in the senior year of high school.
Ample literature points to the need for a more academically rigorous high school curriculum (Adelman, 1999, 2006; Barth, 2001; Haycock et al., 1999; Kirst, 2001; National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001; Peterson, 2003; Wilbur & Chapman, 1978). Within California, it was determined in 1999 that the high school proficiency standards were set below a high school level. As such, the development of the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) was authorized in compliance with the high school testing requirements of the federal accountability program No Child Left Behind (NCLB), as part of the Legislature's intention to raise the bar for higher exit standards and high school graduation. The CAHSEE, according to the Legislature, was implemented as a means of accountability in an effort to "...significantly improve pupil achievement in high school and to ensure that pupils who graduate from high school can demonstrate grade level competency in reading, writing, and mathematics..." (Senate Bill 2, Section 1[b] - Need correct citation for CAHSEE info). Beginning with the 2005-06 school year, the CAHSEE became a mandated test for all California public school students. Students are required to take their CAHSEE in their sophomore year of high school.
Arguably, the CAHSEE has been contentious since its inception. Critics often state that the exit exam encourages schools to "teach to the test", consequently narrowing the curriculum. Furthermore, skeptics contend that the exam is aimed at students with a tenth grade education level, fails to raise secondary education exit standards, and compounds the issue of the lack of curricular intensity of the high school senior year (as the K-12 accountability movement has no plans for senior year assessments).
The accountability movement and subsequent standardized testing precipitated by NCLB are not the only potential contributing factors to the lack of academic rigor in the high school senior year. Also contributing to the phenomenon is that many universities have early acceptance programs, notifying juniors in high school of their admittance, leaving little incentive for students to put forth much academic effort beyond that point (Kirst, 2001). As a result, it is prior to the senior year when students do the bulk of their college preparation, relegating the last year of high school and corresponding senior year grade point average irrelevant (National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001). This often results in many high school seniors losing interest in school (Kirst, 2001; National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001).
This reduced concentration on academics in the senior year, often referred to as "senior slump", does not solely apply to the top academic achievers. For the average student, the "slump" begins right after they have completed their college applications, and because of open college admission policies, the "slump" for the lesser academically able student begins the moment they feel confident that they will graduate (Kirst, 2001). Because of this, Kirst (2001) argues, the "senior slump" has become a component of the entire American high school culture. One ramification of "senior slump" is the increasing number of students requiring college remediation (Peterson, 2003). Once again, this consequence affects students of all levels of academic achievement. Perhaps more predictably, students who did not engage in rigorous coursework in high school are more likely to be in need of remedial coursework in college. However, a number of the top academic achievers find themselves needing remediation in college because the majority, if not all, of the rigorous coursework they took occurred prior to the senior year, consequently resulting in these students forgetting what they learned by the time they attend college (Peterson, 2003). The long-term effects of participation in remedial courses on college persistence and degree attainment have produced some eye-opening statistics. Students placed into remedial courses during the first year of college attained a 48.7% graduation rate, whereas peers (those who completed only credit-bearing courses) achieved a 70% graduation rate (Adelman, 2006).
As previously mentioned, Adelman (1999, 2006) suggests that the rigor of the high school curriculum is the most relevant and predictive factor of attaining a college degree. If this is the case, high remediation rates can be seen as evidence of the lack of academic rigor of the high school curriculum. It can be argued that the current lack of academic intensity at the secondary level, particularly in the senior year, manifests in increased remediation rates at the postsecondary level. With this, it becomes clear that academic preparation for college is crucial while students are in high school.
While the lack of academic preparation speaks to a portion of the issue of student persistence in higher education by addressing the pre-matriculation characteristics and skills needed for college success, the factors that affect students' decision to depart or persist once they are in college must also be addressed. Vincent Tinto's theoretical model of attrition and persistence takes a sociological stance and emphasizes the importance of students' acclimation and integration to the college environment in influencing students' persistence. The model is made of the following components: a) pre-entry attributes (prior schooling and background); b) goals/commitment (student aspiration and institutional goals); c) institutional experiences (academics, faculty interaction, co-curricular involvement, and peer group interaction); d) integration (academic and social); e) goals/commitment (intentions and external commitments); and f) outcome (departure decision - graduate, transfer, dropout) (Tinto, 1993). Essentially, Tinto's model presents a framework by which to gauge a student's navigation through and acclimation to the higher education setting. According to the model, students' integration into the college environment, which is influenced by institutional variables such as faculty-student interaction, peer group interaction, and extracurricular involvement, will shape the students' progression through college and affect the outcome of degree attainment.
As the importance of attaining a college degree has increased, so has the level of frustration of college and high school administrators, instructors, and more with the disparity between students' educational aspirations and their outcomes. Recognizing the validity of integration theories such as Tinto's, and unable to ignore data, such as that organized by Adelman, that supports the need for academic intensity at the high school level, many invested in the success of our nation's students have begun to create programs addressing both students' preparation and integration needs. One such method of offering college-level learning options to high school students may concurrently address these needs of preparation and integration by providing the much needed curricular and socio-psychological support to prepare students for college success (Boswell, 2001).
Dual Enrollment: College Level Learning for High School Students
Dual enrollment programs are one option for college-level learning in high school and are the result of a joint effort between high schools and colleges by which high school students are allowed to enroll in college courses. Typically, students enroll in college courses in their junior or senior year, although participation rates amongst grade level vary from program to program. Depending on the program structure, students may take courses at their high school or at the collaborating postsecondary institution. High school or college faculty may teach dual enrollment courses. In some programs, students earn "dual credit", with the college course counting for transcriptable credit at both the high school and college level. In other cases, only college credit is granted. In both circumstances, students are concurrently enrolled in both high school and college and the college credit earned is recorded on their college transcripts just as it would if they were regularly matriculated college students.
The groundwork for dual enrollment programs was largely catalyzed by two research studies. The Carnegie Commission, in its report entitled "Less time, more options: Education beyond the high school", revealed a large degree of curricular overlap between the senior year of high school and the freshman year of college. It found the curricular overlap so great that it suggested drastic structural changes to the secondary and post-secondary educational systems such as deleting either the last year of high school or the first year of college, the creation of a three-year bachelor's degree program, and allowing for high school students to obtain college credit while still in high school. The second study that influenced the development of dual enrollment programs was "A Nation at Risk" in 1983 (Fincher-Ford, 1997). The impact of "A Nation at Risk" was so great that it "spurred more commotion, controversy, and change to America's high schools than any other public statement [since] Brown v. Board of Education" (Guthrie & Springer, 2004, p. 14). This report charged that the preeminence of the United States was being threatened by a dysfunctional secondary school system and the only way the nation could avoid becoming economically inferior in the world was to elevate educational achievement (Guthrie & Springer, 2004). In response to this, states attempted to raise overall student academic performance by implementing plans to increase the number of rigorous courses available to high school students (Fincher-Ford, 1997) and subsequently, dual enrollment courses have become an integral component of a broad strategy to better prepare students for college (Klein, 2007).
Goals of Dual Enrollment Programs
Several scholars have identified dual enrollment program goals that are consistent with the literature on college preparation and persistence. The three primary preparation and persistence related goals of dual enrollment programs are as follows: Preparing students for the academic rigors of college, making senior year more meaningful, and providing students with the non-academic skills needed to succeed in college. This section introduces each goal and connects the goal to relevant literature on student college preparation and persistence.
One goal of dual enrollment is to prepare students for the academic rigors of college. This is crucial, as current research indicates that students who are more academically prepared for college achieve higher levels of success in college (Adelman, 1999) as measured by enrollment, persistence, grades and educational attainment (Kuh et al., 2006). In their analysis of data from the 1998 High School Transcript Study and the High School and Beyond Study, Kuh et al. (2006) found that the quality of the academic experiences and intensity of high school curriculum affect almost every dimension of success in postsecondary education. This relationship is particularly strong for students from racial and ethnic minority groups. African American and Latino students' college completion rates are more positively related to a high-quality, academically intense high school curriculum than white students' (Conley, 2005; Barth, 2001; Adelman, 1999).
Similarly, Haycock and Huang (2001) strongly advocate for all high school graduates entering post-secondary education to complete college level courses in high school. However, even in school systems offering these types of courses in the high school, transcript studies showed that students did not always elect to enroll in college level classes or were sometimes counseled away from enrollment by teachers who held low expectations for the students' post-secondary plans. Exposure to higher-level courses resulted in greater gains for previously low achieving students, while those already achieving academically continued to benefit (Haycock & Huang, 2001). Students who participated in more rigorous courses, regardless of their entry skill level, increased their outcome achievement to a larger extent than other similarly situated students who participated in less rigorous coursework. In fact, students placed in the most rigorous classes made the largest gains. These outcomes show promise for students enrolled in well-structured dual enrollment programs that add rigor to the high school curriculum by offering college level courses either at the high school site, on the university or college campus, or both.
A second goal of dual enrollment programs is to make the senior year of high school more meaningful to students who might otherwise be tempted to slack off. The National Commission on the High School Senior Year (2001) examined students' experiences in the last year of high school and found that in the senior year, students are bored and studying becomes irrelevant, encouraging the phenomenon of "senior slump". The Commission (2001) found that this phenomenon affects nearly every type of student (Kirst, 2001). Advocates argue that dual enrollment programs can combat this by providing students with increased curricular options and academic challenges (Miller, 2001). The College Board (2007) suggests that students make the most of senior year by trying college out early through participation in a credit-based transition program, such as dual enrollment.
A third goal of dual enrollment programs is to inform students about the non-academic skills that they will need to succeed in college (Orr, 1998; Bailey, Hughes & Karp, 2002). Non-academic factors include commitment to obtaining a degree, self-confidence, skill development (e.g., time management skills, study skills, study habits), and social integration into the institution (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004). Frequently, students who do not persist in college cite non-academic factors as reasons for dropping out. Because many dual enrollment programs include time on campus and exposure to the non-academic side of college, these programs may serve as a demystifying experience for students, allowing them to acclimate to the college environment during high school (Bailey, Hughes & Karp, 2002). Through this exposure, students may begin to understand what will be expected of them as college students, potentially increasing their confidence and helping them to more successfully navigate the transition from high school to college.
Dual Enrollment Assessment
The origination and goals of dual enrollment programs stem from good intentions - Provide students with the skills necessary to succeed in college. Good intentions aside, dual enrollment programs are not without critics. One of the most common critiques of dual enrollment programs is that they serve a population that would normally attend college without the program (Venezia, Kirst & Antonio, 2003). Data suggests that dual enrollment has become a common option in American high schools, however, students who may have the most potential to benefit from getting a head start on college - underrepresented groups - participate the least (Venezia, Kirst & Antonio, 2003). Additionally, schools with the highest minority enrollment are least likely to offer dual enrollment courses (On Ramp to College: A State Policymaker's Guide to Dual Enrollment - need correct citation). Among postsecondary institutions with dual enrollment programs, 85 percent set academic eligibility requirements excluding at-risk students from participation. Only 5% of the institutions surveyed in the NCES (2005) report acknowledged having programs geared toward at-risk students and the overall focus of those programs was career/technical development, not academic achievement. These findings suggest that there is a major fracture between who is receiving and benefiting from these programs and who needs to receive and benefit from these programs. Because of this, critics argue that dual enrollment programs reinforce, and perhaps increase, the achievement gap between high-achieving students and low-achieving students.
Another concern relative to dual enrollment includes the level of academic rigor of programs (McCabe, 2000), especially if taught by a high school teacher, and the lack of rigorous research to understand the benefits of dual enrollment programs (Karp, et al., 2005; Bailey & Karp, 2003). When program courses are located at the high school, dual enrollment is often criticized for not offering students a true postsecondary experience.
Proponents of dual enrollment argue that participation in dual enrollment is related to success in education beyond high school. However, there is little empirical evidence to support these claims (Prescott, 2006). Karp (2004) attributes the lack of rigorous, scientifically based research about dual enrollment programs to several reasons. First, both the goals of dual enrollment and outcome measures of success are multiple and varied. Outcomes of current research indicate some success in different areas-college retention, college access, freshman GPA, persistence to a two-year degree, persistence to a four-year degree, or any combination thereof-but more information is needed (Karp, 2004). Second, program type varies indefinitely (Kleiner & Lewis, 2005). Researchers find it difficult to describe specific components and organize them neatly into well-defined categories. Finally, there is a seemingly limitless number of variables that can influence the impacts and outcomes of dual enrollment programs, and it is very difficult to separate them from other factors influencing the success of the programs (Karp, 2004).
Dual enrollment programs promise to be a worthwhile opportunity to provide all students a chance to experience college earlier. Yet, the availability of research on students' experiences, student success, and student outcomes in these programs remains extremely limited. More research is needed to understand the different types of experiences students have in dual enrollment programs. The current study addresses this knowledge gap by examining one dual enrollment program in particular: The Accelerated College Entrance Program.
The Accelerated College Entrance Program
California State University, Sacramento developed a dual enrollment program, Accelerated College Entrance (ACE) in 1985 in response to the need of curricular rigor for highly motivated and/or academically advanced high school students within Sac State's service area. ACE proposed that advanced coursework and accelerated learning programs at the high school level did not always fully meet the needs of their students. The program founder raised his concern that failing to provide appropriate academic opportunities to such students might result in "brilliant youngsters whose potentials are never realized" (Need citation from ACE memo). As such, at its inception, ACE's target demographic was comprised of academically high-achieving, college bound students who did not have access to appropriate or stimulating accelerated coursework at their high schools. ACE responded to this need by offering select students the opportunity to enroll early in university level coursework either at their high school site or on the Sac State campus. The ACE Program objectives were as follows:
To identify the academic strengths of students who are highly able and motivated toward university studies, and who are currently enrolled in secondary schools.
To provide information and guidance to students, their parents, and secondary schools regarding opportunities to develop the identified academic strengths.
To provide assistance to students, their parents, and secondary schools in meeting the academic needs of highly able and motivated youth; including assistance in admission to the university and registration in selected courses, as appropriate.
To work collaboratively with local districts toward improvement of the academic preparation of college-bound secondary school students.
To support research related to the total development of highly able and motivated youth, including academic, social, psychological, ethical, and other areas of development.
(need correct citation from ACE memos)
Students enrolled in the ACE Program have the opportunity to take college-level courses at a reduced tuition rate of $15 per semester while accumulating college credit before graduating high school. When high school students complete an ACE course on the Sac State campus, they are awarded college credit. High school administrators do have the authority to award the student high school credit for successfully completing the course, however, this has to be applied on an individual student basis and is not a systemic part of the program. When students complete an ACE course at their participating high school, they are awarded both college and high school credit for the experience.
ACE classes offered at the high school campus are articulated with approved courses offered at the Sac State campus. This allows the high school students to take these college-level courses during their normal school day. Conversely, ACE courses offered on the Sac State campus are regularly scheduled college courses that are designed to meet the academic needs of the regularly matriculated Sac State students at the university. Most ACE students are taking these courses after their normal high school day. ACE students can apply to enroll in any lower-division course Sac State offers as long as they meet the prerequisites for the course and they have permission from both the ACE Director and a high school administrator. Priority for course registration and enrollment is given to regularly matriculated Sac State students, and ACE students cannot displace adult students in regular Sac State courses. This means a high school student wanting to enroll in a college level course via ACE cannot occupy a seat in the class if there is an adult student needing or wanting that same seat.
As the ACE program has expanded over the past 25 years, so has its student base. The screening and enrollment process has transitioned from a strict emphasis on standardized-test score enrollment requirements to a more inclusive and holistic perspective on what qualities potential ACE students have which are indicators of being able to benefit from the program. At present day, the more flexible parameters for enrollment lends the program to be available to a broad spectrum of students - from the overtly "gifted" students to those whose talents pass quietly under the radar. In this regard, it seems that the benefits of the ACE Program can be twofold - provide accelerated learning options to already college-bound high school students, and also provide an opportunity for access to college for those students who may not have been labeled or perceived as "gifted" or accelerated learners and consequently not seen as college bound.
Despite the program's significant expansion in recent years, the benefits of ACE have not been formally or longitudinally assessed. The following chapter will outline a research methodology intended to determine the affects of participation in the ACE Program on student success in college as measured by freshman year GPA, first year persistence, and social and academic integration into the campus environment.
Rationale for the Project
Arguably, quality dual enrollment programs can expose students to the rigors of college-level curriculum and assist with a successful transition from secondary to postsecondary education. And while the majority of dual enrollment programs are targeted for the top academically achieving students, the ACE Program has recently expanded the parameters of its student eligibility requirements. If properly implemented, the program may contribute to the academic preparation of a wide student base, providing academic enrichment opportunities to the students who, arguably, need it most. Therefore, it is the intent of this researcher to examine and evaluate the Sac State ACE Program for its effectiveness and contribution to the college academic success and social integration of ACE student participants.
Our nation's current economic status has created an increased need for students to obtain a college degree. And while students' aspirations to do so are reflective of this, high college remediation rates and low college completion rates suggest that students' educational goals are not in alignment with their actual educational outcomes. The phenomena of faltering college graduation rates is often attributed to students' lack of academic preparation at the secondary level, as well as their lack of social integration once they are officially matriculated college students. Practitioners, policymakers, and more have responded to this educational crisis and have begun to create innovative programs addressing both students' college preparation and college integration needs.
Specifically, dual enrollment programs have become an integral component of a broad strategy to better prepare students to succeed in college. Generally speaking, the following three preparation and persistence centered goals are common amongst a number of dual enrollment programs: 1. Prepare students for the academic rigors of college by exposing them to college-level coursework. 2. Make the senior year of high school more meaningful to students who might otherwise fall victim to "senior slump". 3. Inform students about the non-academic skills that they will need to succeed in college. While dual enrollment programs show promise for assisting students in making the transition from high school to college, prepared to succeed at their postsecondary institutions, more research is needed in order to understand students' experiences, successes, and outcomes as participants in the various types of dual enrollment programs. The current study addresses this knowledge gap by examining one dual enrollment program in particular: The Accelerated College Entrance (ACE) Program at California State University, Sacramento. In conducting a preliminary outcomes assessment on a cohort of ACE student participants, this researcher hopes to create an assessment framework that may be utilized by the program in order to initiate the actions of accountability necessary to maintain the viability of dual enrollment programs.
Dual enrollment programs hold promise for preparing high school students to succeed in higher education. The literature reviewed in Chapter 2 provides an overview of the crucial importance of obtaining a college degree, highlights the factors contributing to the lack of student preparation for college, and points to the ways in which dual enrollment opportunities may help to better assist students in making a successful transition from high school to college. However, although the voices of proponents of dual enrollment opportunities are strong, these types of programs are also critiqued and are being challenged now, more than ever, to show evidence of program effectiveness.
This study is in response to this call for accountability and its purpose is to determine whether participation in Sacramento State's dual enrollment program, Accelerated College Entrance (ACE), contributes to students' college success as measured by student perception of college readiness and social integration, college GPA, remedial coursework, and persistence through the first year of college. In an effort to understand the ACE Program's relation to these phenomena, the following questions are investigated in the study:
What are the academic effects of participation in ACE on students' initial entry into college, such as first semester GPA, persistence to the second semester, second semester GPA, and the need for remedial coursework?
What are the psychosocial effects of participation in a dual enrollment program on students' initial entry into college, such as perception of college readiness and social integration, involvement in recreation sports, extra-curricular campus activities, fraternity/sorority, student government, student clubs, campus events, classroom participation, and faculty and peer interaction?
The Accelerated College Entrance (ACE) program currently serves students at over 50 participating high schools in the Sacramento State service area and in the 2008-2009 school year over 5,000 students enrolled in ACE courses. Students enrolled in the ACE Program have the opportunity to take college-level courses, for nominal fee, while accumulating college credit before graduating high school. ACE students have the option of taking courses either on the Sac State campus or at their high school site. Regardless of the location of where they take the ACE course, ACE enrolled students are officially enrolled as "Undergraduate, Transitory" students, assigned a Sac State ID number, and are eligible to obtain a Sac State ID card, a semester transit pass, and in general, may opt to partake in any campus activity offered to regularly matriculated Sac State students.
ACE courses offered at participating high schools are articulated with a lower division Sac State course and are taught by approved high school instructors who are held to the same qualification and credential standards as any adjunct faculty of the participating Sac State department.
Students opting to take ACE courses on the Sac State campus may apply to enroll in any lower-division course that Sac State offers provided there is space available in the class and the student has obtained enrollment permission from the course instructor, ACE director, and a high school administrator, teacher, or counselor.
As a result of scheduling conflicts, and the difficulty of balancing course loads at separate educational institutions, the majority of ACE participants opt to take ACE courses offered at their high school site. On average, approximately 20 students per semester take ACE courses on the Sac State campus.
Population and Sample
The population entails all high school graduates who previously participated in the ACE Program at either their high school site, on the Sac State campus, or both.
The sample of research subjects will be comprised of former ACE Program students who matriculated as first time freshmen at Sac State in Fall 2008. This sample is comprised of 131 students who enrolled in at least one ACE course in high school prior to attending Sac State as first-time freshmen. Enrollees from Fall 2008 were selected in order to allow for students to have potentially completed a minimum of one year of college prior to engaging in the study. Additionally, the ACE program's eligibility requirements were more restrictive prior to the fall 2006 school year; thus, the researcher purposively selected a sample population that will produce data that is reflective of current ACE practices. This student sample will be rich in data that is particularly relevant to the current effects of the Sac State ACE Program on student college success. Sac State was chosen as the institution from which to draw from for the sample population due to the researcher's access to comprehensive transcript data at the researcher's place of employment.
The researcher will use a cross sectional study design in that data will be collected from the Fall 2008 cohort of former ACE students just once (Cowan, 2004).
Upon applying to Sac State as entering first-time freshmen, students are required to fill out the university's online application through CSU Mentor as well as provide final high school transcripts and SAT scores. The Sac State Office of Institutional research will be requested to provide the following aggregate data for the 131 former ACE students who matriculated at Sac State as first-time freshmen in Fall 2008: Ethnicity, academic standing, overall and semester-to-semester college GPA, remediation rates, semester-to-semester retention rates, average SAT scores, average high school GPA good standing status, and initial indicated major. For comparison purposes, this information will be cross-referenced to that of all first-time freshmen matriculating at Sac State in Fall 2008. This information is already tabulated by the Sac State Office of Institutional Research and is available from their published "University Fact Book". This will serve to provide an overall demographic picture of these 131 former ACE students as compared to their non-ACE counterparts. Additional student data will be gathered by means of a student questionnaire.
The ACE Program works in close collaboration with the Office of the University Registrar in the processing of all ACE student applications. The Office of the University Registrar processes all ACE student applications and codes the ACE student applicants for tracking purposes. As such, the Sac State Office of the University Registrar will be requested to provide a roster listing names and Sac State Student ID's of the 131 former ACE students. The researcher will reference these students' ACE applications in order to retrieve contact information for each of these students. The entire cohort of 131 former ACE students who matriculated at Sac State as first-time freshmen in Fall 2008 will be recruited by written invitation to take part in the study by filling out a questionnaire. Each student in the cohort will be mailed a Consent Form, Questionnaire, and self-addressed stamped envelope (in order to return the questionnaire to the researcher). Non-respondents will be sent reminder postcards and/or reminder emails (if the student provided an email on their ACE application) requesting students to return their completed questionnaires.
The researcher developed a questionnaire that pulled a number of questions from two previously tested survey instruments. The first was developed by the National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), a national dual enrollment accreditation agency. The second is the National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE) Report, a survey that "assesses the extent to which students engage in a variety of educationally effective activities" (NSEE, 2008). The survey utilized for this study is designed to gauge the students' current levels of academic and social integration at Sac State, as well provide insight into students' perception of to what extent ACE influenced these variables.
The qualitative questionnaire is comprised of six open-ended questions and three closed-ended questions. One of the closed-ended questions will give context as to the location where students took their ACE course(s) and the remaining two closed-ended questions utilize a likert-scale and will provide supplemental information that will help to gauge students' perceptions of their academic preparation for college, social integration, and how their participation in the ACE program contributed to these factors.
Analysis of the Data
The researcher will summarize and present the qualitative data garnered from the student questionnaire by conducting a means of interpretational analysis of the student responses. According to Cowan (2004), the process of interpretational analysis will include the "coding and classification of the data" (p.217), which will allow the researcher to elicit the emergent themes amongst the students' responses.
Findings (to be added)
Interpretation (to be added)
Description of the Project (to be added)