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Birnbaum, Matthew

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This study examined whether policies related to college readiness have a relationship with student outcomes of college-going, student retention rates, and graduation rates for the overall state population as well as the rates specifically for European American and non-European American students. Specifically, a multilevel modeling approach was employed to determine whether significant relationships exist between the presence of state college readiness policies and change in student outcomes over time when controlling for state- and institutional-level factors. Several policies were considered, including: (a) the existence of a college-readiness definition, (b) a requirement for students to take college-prepatory courses in order to receive a high school diploma, (c) course-credit requirements for a high school diploma that align with a state’s postsecondary admissions policies, (d) the alignment of high school assessments with postsecondary academic expectations, and (e) the use of high school assessments in postsecondary admissions and placement decisions. In addition, I examined whether the relationship between policies and student outcomes is the same at 2- and 4-year institutions within a state. Data used in this study were pulled from several existing data sets, including IPEDS and data gathered by Education Week in their annual Quality Counts reports. Multilevel growth modeling was used to examine relationships between variables at both the institution- and state-level (or in the case of Research Question 1, state-level only), and to model longitudinal changes in outcomes over the study period of interest. Results of this study show that college-going rates have not changed over the years included, while both retention and graduation rates have seen measurable growth. None of the state policies related to college readiness were found to significantly relate to student outcomes, with one exception. Requirements for students to take collegepreparatory classes had a negative relationship with graduation rates at 2-year institutions, though this may more accurately reflect the exclusion of transfer students in the graduation rate metric. Significant differences were found in student outcomes between the 2- and 4-year sectors, as well as in the graduation rates for European American and non-European American students. Given these findings, policymakers and administrators should continue to focus on improving college-going behavior, exploring other types of policies targeting P-20 alignment, and addressing the gaps in graduation rates for students from different populations.


194 pages

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