An Evaluation of a Policy Intervention to Increase Academic Achievement in a Technical High School: Does Model Matter?
Infinger, Kim M.
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University of Washington Abstract An Evaluation of a Policy Intervention to Increase Academic Achievement in a Technical High School: Does Model Matter? Kim Infinger Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Associate Professor Joe Lott College of Education, Education Leadership and Policy Studies Lake Washington Technical Academy (LWTA) is a dual enrollment high school located on the campus of a technical college with a focus on serving at-risk youth who have either dropped out or left their previous high school for a number of reasons. Students endeavor to earn a high school diploma and significant college credits that can lead to an associate degree or a certificate. This study describes the demographic and academic characteristics of students who first enrolled at LWTA from Fall 2006 through April 2011 in order to evaluate the potential impact of a policy change which occurred in the Fall of 2009. Beginning Fall 2009, LWTA established a policy that students who entered the program with a high school GPA below 2.0 were at greater risk for academic failure and would need additional support to be successful. LWTA implemented the Gateway to College program as an intervention for this group of students and retained its original model for students determined to be at lower academic risk upon entry. This dissertation utilizes Tinto and Pusser’s (2006) model of institutional action as a theoretical framework to articulate the theory of change that is proposed to increase academic achievement of the at-risk students post Fall 2009. This study examined differences in three measures of academic achievement (cumulative first year GPA, attainment of a high school diploma, and attainment of a college credential) between groups of students, referred to as policy cohorts. The study also examined variables that could be useful in predicting these differences. Regression analysis indicated the most important variables in predicting first year GPA were being in an at-risk policy cohort and age at entry. Variables that contributed to the prediction of attainment of a high school diploma were race, COMPASS math score, number of credits earned at entry, and first year cumulative GPA. The strongest predictors of attainment of a college credential were being in the at-risk policy cohort, age at entry, and first year cumulative GPA. This study has important implications for dual enrollment programs and interventions designed for at-risk and dropout youth.
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