June 2010 – Michal Kurlaender, an associate professor in the School of Education, has been awarded a $1.8 million federal grant to study a unique California program established six years ago to help high school students better prepare for college.
The grant will fund a study of the California Early Assessment
Program, which gives students information and advice about their
readiness for the California State University.
The program measures English and math skills after students’ junior year in high school. Those with poor scores receive recommendations on courses and other steps they can take during their senior year to better prepare for college.
An earlier study by Kurlaender and two colleagues of students at CSU Sacramento found that participation in the early assessment program reduced the average student’s probability of needing remedial English and math by 6.2 percentage points and 4.3 percentage points. This study was presented at a research conference last spring and will be published this fall in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
But it’s unclear whether those improvements resulted from students taking more college prep classes, as recommended, or whether some simply were dissuaded from applying to CSU campuses. The new study will attempt to answer those questions in a much larger research project that will include all 23 CSU campuses.
“We want to know not just if the program works, but why,” Kurlaender said. “Kids who get a bad message, do they decide not to apply? Is it working because we’ve weeded out the students who maybe aren’t ready? Our early evidence suggests that’s not the case.
“Second, we’re going to do a more in-depth study of transcripts to try and see if kids are taking better advantage of their senior year as a result of this information.”
Kurlaender will conduct the study with Jessica Howell, a CSU Sacramento economics professor, and Eric Grodsky, a former UC Davis sociology professor now at the University of Minnesota.