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This two-year study used case-study methodology, combined with a state policy scan, to explore the policies and practices that help students prepare for and transition to college. The study builds upon two U.S. Department of Education funded studies of credit-based transition programs: a comprehensive review of the literature released in September of 2003, and a set of high school and postsecondary surveys released in April 2005.
Work proceeded in four phases:
Phase 1: Focus Groups and Interviews
Focus groups and interviews with instructors and administrators of credit-based transition programs were conducted to identify, first, the programmatic features of credit-based programs and, second, those features that specifically support the transition of middle- to low-achieving students.
Phase 2: State Policy Analysis
Using publicly available state legislation and guidelines, this analysis identified current policy mechanisms that promote or limit the expansion of credit-based transition programs. Commonalties across states were identified, and the ramifications of policy decisions explored.
Phase 3: Site Selection and Outreach
Site selection was guided by a set of criteria defining exemplary credit-based transition programs. The criteria focus on both program features and program outcomes. Sites were geographically diverse and selected to represent the range of comprehensive and enhanced comprehensive programs.
Phase 4: Case Studies
Case studies explored the programmatic features that support the transition of middle- and low-achieving students from secondary to postsecondary education. Teams of investigators conducted multi-day site visits to collect data on practices and policies guiding program operation. Data analysis focused on the state and local context, the history of the program, how the program is structured and administrated, and the outcomes achieved by students that participate in these programs. Analysis was conducted at both the individual site level as well as across states.