John H. Portz
Paul (Paul E.) Harrington, Neeta Fogg
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Social Sciences & Humanities, Department of Political Science
college enrollment, college readiness, college retention, longitudinal student database, secondary school level factors
Educational evaluation--Massachusetts, College attendance--Massachusetts, High school graduates--Massachusetts
Despite the United States' long-standing public commitment to postsecondary education and the growing importance of college degrees for individual and national prosperity, today many Americans fail to achieve these valuable academic credentials. To be able to tackle this problem policymakers require a comprehensive understanding of college readiness: precisely, what abilities, attitudes, knowledge and skills do students need to successfully earn a college degree? This study contributes to developing this understanding by analyzing the effects different secondary school level variables have on the postsecondary enrollment and retention outcomes of high school graduates. In turn, these findings highlight the issues, and inform the strategies, that policymakers must grapple with and pursue to ensure students leave high school ready to successfully enroll and persist in college.
This study is conducted using a two-stage mixed methods approach. The first stage involves an in-depth quantitative analysis (including multivariate logistic regression) of almost 7,400 individual student records of recent seniors who graduated from eight high schools in Massachusetts. These records come from the Northeastern University Longitudinal High School to College Transition Database; a unique longitudinal student database that covers multiple aspects of a student's high school experience, as well as their postsecondary enrollment, retention and completion outcomes. This is complemented by a quantitative and qualitative analysis of data from an online survey with 12 guidance directors from public high schools across Massachusetts.
This study's findings reveal that college readiness is a complex multi-dimensional issue, influenced by a variety of malleable secondary school level factors that are receptive to policy change. The regression findings suggest four particular attributes that students require to be successful in college: a strong cognitive base and proficiency in core academic areas; positive educational attitudes; supportive academic behaviors and skills; and postsecondary knowledge. Although the survey findings suggest that high school educators already engage in policies that touch upon each of these college readiness requirements, there are certain areas that require further policy attention. This study also highlights the importance of policymakers developing comprehensive state and federal longitudinal student databases that track student pathways from secondary education throughout the entire postsecondary education system.
Alison Helen Dickson
Dickson, Alison Helen, "First steps on the ladder to college success: understanding the secondary school level factors that determine the college enrollment and retention outcomes of high school graduates in Massachusetts" (2011). Public and International Affairs Dissertations. Paper 8. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20000999
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