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Beyond the test score: A mixed method analysis of a college-access intervention in Chile

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Abstract:

In 2007, one of Chile´s biggest public universities, the University of Santiago at Chile (USACH), introduced a college-preparatory program directed at talented students from highly disadvantaged economic backgrounds who are not likely to be accepted by or to enroll in selective colleges and universities. The initiative was adopted in subsequent years by other public and private institutions, establishing a Network of Universities with Propedéutico college-preparatory programs that in present time consists of 17 members. The objective of this study is to examine the role this unique college-access intervention plays in the enrollment and persistence outcomes of these low-income students. We focus on the experience of the USACH, the institution with the most extensive experience in implementing the program. However, the present study sets the stage to conduct analyses in other institutions.

We employ a mixed methods design to investigate the role of the college access program on the academic achievement and persistence of participating students. Our data include secondary student level data provided by the USACH as well as primary qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews with students from the college-preparatory program. Access to institutional data is rare in Chile, and information gleaned from the quantitative analysis in itself might be considered a contribution to the literature. However, we assert that a mixed methods design offers a contextualized and thus more comprehensive analysis for understanding the impact of these programs, as it considers student achievement outcomes, the academic and cultural challenges students face, as well as the institutional mechanisms that support them preparing for and adapting to college.

As assignment into the college preparatory program is not random, we incorporate statistical techniques to address issues of selection bias in that students that receive the treatment (i.e., that participate in the Propedéutico program) differ systematically from those of untreated subjects (i.e., students that enroll through the regular admission system). In sum, given these constraints, we use an observational, semi-experimental research approach including matching techniques in order to be able to account for these differences in baseline characteristics when estimating the effect of the program on learning outcomes.

Our mixed methods design follows theories of college impact, which suggest that students’ precollege characteristics, attitudes, and expectations must be taken into account to measure college outcomes more precisely than if one only relied on administrative student level data. From this perspective, student learning in college is influenced primarily by two key factors: the amount of time students spend on curricular and extracurricular activities, and the educationally purposeful services and support programs institutions provide to meet the needs of a diverse student population. Using this theoretical framework as a guide, we developed an integrated research design that combines quantitative and qualitative techniques to study learning outcomes and experiences of students who participated in the Propedéutico college-preparatory program. We focused on three aspects of the college experience: (1) student characteristics as they entered college; (2) students’ academic and social experiences and interpretation of them; and (3) development of skills and cultural codes associated with a college education.

Initial results indicate that although students from the college-preparatory program have a mean cumulative GPA significantly lower than that of their peers who entered college through the regular admissions system, most students still meet the institution’s academic requirements to remain in the institution. Evidence collected through student interviews confirms the critical role the program plays in preparing disadvantaged students for college, while at the same time shedding some light on the personal challenges these students face when making the transition from high school to university. That is, despite these initial difficulties to adapt to college life, most students rapidly overcome this phase as their abilities improve and with it their self-esteem. In fact, students from the college-preparatory program feel they have the same probabilities of finishing college as their regular-admission peers. This self-confidence increases with every semester they complete successfully.

To date, much of the quasi-experimental education research in Chile has focused on equity issues from a K-8 perspective. On the other hand, debates about college access in the U.S. and other countries often revolve around issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, whereas in Chile and several other Latin-American countries socioeconomic status is the factor that most influences educational outcomes. Our research contributes to the field of international education as it relates to the higher education access gap by socioeconomic status, thereby focusing on institutional responses to growing demands for increased educational opportunity in countries with large achievement gaps by income.
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Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
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MLA Citation:

Treviño, Ernesto., Flores, Stella. and Scheele, Judith. "Beyond the test score: A mixed method analysis of a college-access intervention in Chile" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p709209_index.html>

APA Citation:

Treviño, E. , Flores, S. and Scheele, J. E. , 2014-03-10 "Beyond the test score: A mixed method analysis of a college-access intervention in Chile" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p709209_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In 2007, one of Chile´s biggest public universities, the University of Santiago at Chile (USACH), introduced a college-preparatory program directed at talented students from highly disadvantaged economic backgrounds who are not likely to be accepted by or to enroll in selective colleges and universities. The initiative was adopted in subsequent years by other public and private institutions, establishing a Network of Universities with Propedéutico college-preparatory programs that in present time consists of 17 members. The objective of this study is to examine the role this unique college-access intervention plays in the enrollment and persistence outcomes of these low-income students. We focus on the experience of the USACH, the institution with the most extensive experience in implementing the program. However, the present study sets the stage to conduct analyses in other institutions.

We employ a mixed methods design to investigate the role of the college access program on the academic achievement and persistence of participating students. Our data include secondary student level data provided by the USACH as well as primary qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews with students from the college-preparatory program. Access to institutional data is rare in Chile, and information gleaned from the quantitative analysis in itself might be considered a contribution to the literature. However, we assert that a mixed methods design offers a contextualized and thus more comprehensive analysis for understanding the impact of these programs, as it considers student achievement outcomes, the academic and cultural challenges students face, as well as the institutional mechanisms that support them preparing for and adapting to college.

As assignment into the college preparatory program is not random, we incorporate statistical techniques to address issues of selection bias in that students that receive the treatment (i.e., that participate in the Propedéutico program) differ systematically from those of untreated subjects (i.e., students that enroll through the regular admission system). In sum, given these constraints, we use an observational, semi-experimental research approach including matching techniques in order to be able to account for these differences in baseline characteristics when estimating the effect of the program on learning outcomes.

Our mixed methods design follows theories of college impact, which suggest that students’ precollege characteristics, attitudes, and expectations must be taken into account to measure college outcomes more precisely than if one only relied on administrative student level data. From this perspective, student learning in college is influenced primarily by two key factors: the amount of time students spend on curricular and extracurricular activities, and the educationally purposeful services and support programs institutions provide to meet the needs of a diverse student population. Using this theoretical framework as a guide, we developed an integrated research design that combines quantitative and qualitative techniques to study learning outcomes and experiences of students who participated in the Propedéutico college-preparatory program. We focused on three aspects of the college experience: (1) student characteristics as they entered college; (2) students’ academic and social experiences and interpretation of them; and (3) development of skills and cultural codes associated with a college education.

Initial results indicate that although students from the college-preparatory program have a mean cumulative GPA significantly lower than that of their peers who entered college through the regular admissions system, most students still meet the institution’s academic requirements to remain in the institution. Evidence collected through student interviews confirms the critical role the program plays in preparing disadvantaged students for college, while at the same time shedding some light on the personal challenges these students face when making the transition from high school to university. That is, despite these initial difficulties to adapt to college life, most students rapidly overcome this phase as their abilities improve and with it their self-esteem. In fact, students from the college-preparatory program feel they have the same probabilities of finishing college as their regular-admission peers. This self-confidence increases with every semester they complete successfully.

To date, much of the quasi-experimental education research in Chile has focused on equity issues from a K-8 perspective. On the other hand, debates about college access in the U.S. and other countries often revolve around issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, whereas in Chile and several other Latin-American countries socioeconomic status is the factor that most influences educational outcomes. Our research contributes to the field of international education as it relates to the higher education access gap by socioeconomic status, thereby focusing on institutional responses to growing demands for increased educational opportunity in countries with large achievement gaps by income.


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