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Report Offers Compelling Insight and Outlines Recommendations for Credit-Based Transition Programs

NEW YORK, NY (October 7, 2005) — With increased support from policymakers for the expansion of credit-based transition programs, a new report released today by the U.S. Department of Education examines the practices of these important programs, highlighting successes and areas of improvement. Pathways to College Access and Success analyzes the ways in which credit-based transition programs can help low and middle-achieving students prepare for college and describes how to expand the reach of these programs.

The report takes an in-depth look at diverse programs from around the country, including dual enrollment, Tech Prep, middle college high school, and International Baccalaureate. Though different in their structure, all of the programs in the study allowed students to earn college credit while still in high school. The programs also provided students with a range of supports to help them succeed in college-credit coursework and prepare for future college success. In addition, all of the programs studied enrolled students from a range of academic backgrounds. The report takes a close look at the programs’ efforts to encourage the participation of disadvantaged and lower-achieving students.

The report’s authors are experts from the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. “Across the country, credit-based transition programs are providing opportunities for college preparation and college credit to increasing numbers of high school students,” said Katherine Hughes, assistant director for work and education reform research at the Community College Research Center. “But we don’t want these programs to be solely for the highest-achieving students. It is important to determine how best to include and support the broad spectrum of students.”

Upon examining the characteristics of these programs and the students they serve, the report provides the following findings and recommendations for practitioners and policymakers.

Encourage Broad Access

The report finds that a broad range of students can benefit from participating in credit-based transition programs. Too often, however, disadvantaged or less academically proficient students are inadvertently excluded. Frequently, there is limited information disseminated to students about the availability of credit-based transition programs. Program staff should systematically inform students, parents, teachers and guidance counselors about the program. Special effort should be made to ensure that students without access to good information sources are able to learn about program opportunities.

Create Curricular Pathways

One important way to encourage broad access is to create pathways through the program that progressively build students’ skills over a series of semesters. These pathways should include high school courses aligned with college entry requirements; developmental courses that build students’ skills; and college-credit courses. A developmental sequence of courses can help maintain program access for all students, particularly middle- and low-achieving students who need opportunities to build their skills before attempting college credit courses. Curricular pathways with multiple access points ensure that students at different levels can enter the program.

Develop Strong Collaborative Relationships

Collaborative relationships between high schools and colleges are needed to ensure the continued success of these programs for participating students. Collaboration can be facilitated by clearly establishing the roles and benefits for each institution in the partnership. Such collaboration can be a model for broader integration between the secondary and postsecondary sectors.

Work With Researchers to Collect Outcomes Data

As credit-based transition programs expand, it is essential to collect data on the impact these programs have on student success in college. Doing this requires high schools and colleges to share data on students, so that analysts can conduct research that begins with students’ performance prior to and following their participation in these programs. This approach also requires high schools and colleges to use common student identifiers and collect common information.

The research and report were funded by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education.