An Examination of the Effectiveness of an Early College High School on Student Performance, Attendance Rates, Graduation Rates and Dropout Rates: Implications for School Leaders
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Throughout the history of education, school leaders have implemented a variety of school reform initiatives to close achievement gaps for students who are low socioeconomically status, English language learners, and students of color; yet not only is this population of students faced with an achievement gap, they are also identified as underrepresented in higher education institutions. The Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI) was created to provide an avenue for the aforementioned students to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree or 60 college credit hours. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if statistical differences exist in students’ performance on the Exit Level of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), and the differences in the frequencies of attendance rates, dropout rates, and graduation rates between students who attend an early college high school and students attending a traditional comprehensive high school. This study was conducted in a large urban school district in southeast Texas. To measure student achievement, the Exit Level TAKS scores and the SAT scores were examined using descriptive statistics. Two-tailed t-tests were used to compare the mean of the students’ TAKS and SAT scores between the Early College High School and the Traditional Comprehensive High School. Descriptive statistics was utilized to examine the differences in the frequencies of students’ attendance, dropout rates, and graduation rates between the Early College High School and the Traditional Comprehensive High School. Additionally, the perspectives on the effectiveness of the ECHSI of the principal, counselor, and teachers from the Early College High School were retrieved by the use of focus groups with semi-structured interviews. Findings from this study indicated that there was not a significant difference in student academic performance on the TAKS between students who attended the Early College High School and students who attended the Traditional Comprehensive High School, yet there was a significant difference in student academic performance on the SAT reading and writing. Findings from this study also indicated that the attendance rates were higher at the Early College High School and the dropout rates were lower than the Traditional Comprehensive High School. Furthermore, the graduation rates for the Early College High School were higher than the Traditional Comprehensive High School, yet both schools experienced a decline in graduation rates during the 2012 -2013 school year. The common themes derived from the focus group semi-structured interviews highlighted the need for student tutorials within an effective AVID program, the need for Texas Success Initiative (TSI) support, the positive culture and climate of the campus which allows for student leadership opportunities, the need to enhance community partner engagement and support, the need for communication with parents and students about the rigor of the course curriculum including policies and procedures of both institutions, and the need for Professional Learning Communities with vertical alignment among the teachers. The implications for school leaders include the need for effective AVID programs in schools to support students with study and organization skills to be successful in college level curriculum; the need for constant communication with the community college, strategic communication to parents and students on program policies and procedures; and the benefits of students participating in rigorous college courses in preparation for academic success.
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