Our research in early colleges started in 2006 when SERVE and our partners began a longitudinal experimental study of the impact of the small, stand-alone early college model as implemented in North Carolina.
The study uses a lottery-based design in which students who applied to the early college and were deemed eligible were placed in a lottery. Students who were randomly accepted into the early college formed the treatment group and students who were not randomly accepted and went somewhere else (usually the district’s comprehensive high school) formed the control group. Because both sets of students applied to and went through the lottery, the treatment and control groups were equivalent. This means that the study is comparing “apples to apples.”
The full study sample includes over 4,000 students who applied to 19 early colleges and would have been 9th graders in the years 2005-06 through 2010-11. Outcome data for the study came from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the National Student Clearinghouse, the North Carolina Community College System, and the University of North Carolina System. These data were linked and housed at the North Carolina Education Research Data Center at Duke University. Information on students’ experiences came from original surveys and from site visits to participating schools.
The study looked at a range of high school and postsecondary outcomes, including attendance, behavior, high school academic performance, high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment, postsecondary grades, and attainment of postsecondary credentials.
The study has been funded by four grants from the Institute of Education Sciences and by a grant from Arnold Ventures.
Research showed that the small stand-alone ECHS model was effective. As a result, there was interest in trying to reach more students by replicating the model in comprehensive high schools. The U.S. Department of Education has funded five different efforts to implement the early college model in comprehensive high schools and we have conducted/are conducting evaluations of all of these projects.
In 2011, North Carolina New Schools received a federal grant to implement early college strategies in 18 comprehensive high schools in rural, low-wealth counties in North Carolina. The impact study used a quasi-experimental approach in which the treatment schools were matched to comparison schools. This was supplemented by data from surveys and case studies.
North Carolina New Schools went abruptly bankrupt in the spring of 2016 and a final report was never written. However, we were able to continue conducting analyses and you will find papers and monographs with results from this study.
In 2012, Jobs for the Future—and its partner, Educate Texas—received a federal grant to blend high school and college by applying strategies from the successful Early College High School Model to 14 middle schools, 12 high schools, and two 6-12 schools in three districts in two states: Colorado and Texas.
The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design to look at the high school impacts in which treatment schools were matched to comparison schools. Surveys and site visits were also conducted. An executive summary, final impact report, final implementation report, and coaching monograph are available.
In 2013, Teachers College at Columbia University, and their partners—Jobs for the Future and the Middle College National Consortium—began the STEM Early College Expansion Project. Funded by a federal grant, this project placed an emphasis on integrating STEM into the ECHS model and was implemented in two states: 11 high schools in Michigan and three high schools in an urban district in Connecticut.
The impact study used a quasi-experimental design to look at the high school impacts in which treatment schools were matched to comparison schools. Surveys and site visits were also conducted. An executive summary, final impact report, implementation brief, and brief about the STEM Early College Model from the project are available.
In 2015, Columbus State Community College and its partners—Jobs for the Future and the Education Services Center of Central Ohio—were funded to implement the College and Career Readiness Expansion Project. Led by a community college, this ongoing project is seeking to implement early college strategies and work-based learning activities in 18 comprehensive high schools in the Columbus Ohio area.
The impact study used a quasi-experimental design to look at the high school impacts in which treatment schools were matched to comparison schools. Surveys and site visits were also conducted. An executive summary, final impact report, and three briefs are available.
Edmunds, J.A., Grebing, E., Coyle, V., Henson, R. & Rosof., L. (2021). Creating a future-oriented culture in high schools. The impact evaluation of the College and Career Readiness Expansion (CCRE) Project—Summary Report. Greensboro, NC: The SERVE Center, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Edmunds, J. A., Grebing, E. M., Coyle, V. C., Henson, R. A., Rosof, L. & Cardwell, R. (2021). Creating a Future-oriented Culture in High School: The Impact of the College and Career Readiness Expansion (CCRE) Project. Greensboro, NC: The SERVE Center, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Edmunds, J., Grebing, E., Coyle, V. & Rosof, L., (2021). Addressing inequity: Expanding access to college-level courses for high school students. Greensboro, NC: The SERVE Center, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Coyle, V., Edmunds, J., Grebing, E. & Rosof, L. (2021). Keys to success: Relationships and adaptability. Lessons learned about secondary-postsecondary partnerships from the College and Career Readiness Expansion Project. Greensboro, NC: The SERVE Center, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Rosof, L., Edmunds, J. Grebing, E., & Coyle, V. (2021). Developing a future orientation: How CCRE schools focused on preparing students for life after high school. Greensboro, NC: The SERVE Center, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Edmunds, J.A., Grebing, E., Coyle, V. & Rosof, L. (in press). Addressing inequity: Expanding access to college-level courses for high school students. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk.
The University of Indianapolis received a recent award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research program (https://oese.ed.gov/files/2019/11/U411B190018-University-of-Indianapolis-Narrative.pdf.) The grant will improve the implementation of 20 early college programs within comprehensive high schools, with an emphasis on creating a structure that will support the quality of the ECHS model.
The evaluation will be a randomized controlled trial in which interested students are randomly assigned either to the early college program or the regular high school experience. Results will be compared for treatment students and control students. This project is just getting started so there are no findings to share yet, but we will update the website.
The Urban College Acceleration Network (UCAN), established in 2022, is a consortium of 4 mentor and 12 partner high schools from urban school districts in Indiana. The project, funded by the Indiana Department of Education and led by CELL at the University of Indianapolis, builds on lessons learned in the Rural Early College Network (RECN) to serve more students in high-quality early college programs. The Early College Research Center is conducting a program evaluation to collect data, provide implementation feedback, and analyze the implementation and impacts of schools striving to gain status as Endorsed Early College Programs by the state. The evaluation team will combine the results of UCAN and RECN to inform the field about networked approaches to supporting early college programs, implementation differences in urban and rural areas, and work within Indiana’s policy environment to support postsecondary attainment.
In North Carolina, eligible high school students can earn credentials and college credits tuition-free from North Carolina colleges and universities through Career & College Promise (CCP), a statewide dual enrollment program. The Evaluation of Career and College Promise, a five-year collaboration between researchers and North Carolina public education agencies funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is studying the impact, implementation, and cost of CCP.
The ECRC Team completed a legislatively mandated study looking at factors affecting student access to, and success in dual enrollment courses. The study also examined the alignment between college courses that can substitute for high school graduation requirements and the high school courses they replace.