Evaluation
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ConnectEd Network of Schools Print E-mail

Goal

To increase the number of low-income youth in California who complete high school, attain a postsecondary credential and emerge from education ready to succeed in work, community and civic affairs.

Initiative Description

ConnectEd is an independent nonprofit organization established in 2006 with a $6 million grant from the Irvine Foundation. ConnectEd serves as a hub for innovative practice, policy and research to expand the number of education pathways that prepare students for both college and career. Pathways help students gain an advantage in high school, college and career by connecting strong academics with real-world experience in a wide range of fields, such as engineering, arts and media, and biomedical and health. Programs that link learning with student interests and job preparation lead to higher graduation rates, increased college enrollments and higher earning potential. Used in schools throughout California, this integrated approach helps students build a strong foundation for success in college and career—and life.

In order to provide direct example of the potential for the pathways approach, ConnectEd has established a network of high schools that are demonstrating the multiple pathways approach of blending rigorous academics with real-world learning. The objectives for this network of schools are to:

  • showcase effective, well-designed examples of the multiple pathways approach
  • provide credible evidence of the effectiveness of multiple pathways on student outcomes
  • support program improvement throughout the network and among other schools using a multiple pathways approach

ConnectEd continues to support the network as a demonstration for schools, districts, policymakers and others interested in learning about multiple pathways. For more information about the network, including videos of students, see this page.

Evaluation

An evaluation of the ConnectEd Network of Schools was conducted by MPR Associates with input from ConnectEd to examine how a multiple pathways approach improves student outcomes. Evaluation findings are shaping ConnectEd’s ongoing technical assistance to the Network of Schools and the larger-scale California Multiple Pathways District Initiative. We are also sharing the results with the larger educational community in California, particularly policymakers and other stakeholders, so they can see the evidence of the effectiveness of a multiple pathways approach.

The external evaluation of the Network of Schools focused on the 2007 - 2008 school year, but through ongoing evaluation of these programs, ConnectEd continues to build a base of research about the effectiveness of multiple pathway programs and how to improve them.

Objectives:

There were two primary objectives for this evaluation:

  1. Document the performance of students participating in pathways at each school by using a set of core indicators common to all of the schools in the network
  2. Assess the fidelity of pathways implementation relative to key components of multiple pathway design, based on criteria developed by ConnectEd

Due to the variety of approaches at network schools and student self-selection into the programs studied, this evaluation was expected to provide useful but not definitive evidence of the impact of pathways.

Time frame:

2007 – 2008

Participating grantees:

The network consists of 16 schools throughout the state. In selecting participating schools, ConnectEd sought out multiple pathways programs that offer rigorous academic curriculum and high quality instruction, that specifically target underachieving students, and that were aligned to the industry sectors designated by the California Department of Education. A full list and map of schools in the ConnectEd network is available on their website.

Methods:

The evaluators analyzed multiple data sources. Student achievement data from the schools, including test scores, attendance, course completion and graduation rates, provided information on performance. Staff surveys, site visits and focus groups at network schools provided qualitative data to evaluate program design and gauge how well each program aligns with the multiple pathways model, based on the program assessment rubric attached below.

Findings:

MPR drafted a final evaluation report focused on the 2007–08 school year. Prior to delivering the final report to ConnectEd and Irvine, they reviewed school-specific findings with administrators at each site and incorporated their reflections into the final report (available below). Student outcomes include:

  • Students are engaged in school and learning – Attendance and graduation rates were higher in network schools compared to statewide averages, and six schools had graduation rates of 100 percent. Most of the schools reported that all of their students were on track for graduation. The evaluators also noted the quality of student engagement that they observed on site visits.
  • Students are prepared for college – Overall, 35 percent of participating students met the “a-g” eligibility requirements for admission to the University of California and California State University systems. Ten of the sites exceeded the statewide “a-g” completion rate of 36 percent, and four of those exceeded it significantly, with 90 percent or more of their seniors meeting the “a-g” criteria at graduation.
  • Promising test scores – Multiple pathways students in the network were more likely than other California students to pass the California High School Exit Exam on their first attempt in the 10th grade, particularly African American and Latino students. On the California Standards Tests, network students performed similarly to other students statewide on exams in English, history and several of the physical sciences, while scores in chemistry, physics and math lagged statewide scores.

Many of the key findings from this evaluation support prior ConnectEd research about student performance in career academies. Additional background and data from the evaluation are available in the Insight report provided below and the full technical report from MPR.

In addition to encouraging student outcomes data, this evaluation also found challenges to implementing the pathways approach in network schools. Two key challenges were effectively integrating academic and technical curriculum, and ensuring the academic rigor of instruction. ConnectEd is focused on these challenges and on finding solutions in order to improve the effectiveness and reach of multiple pathways. Read more about the implications for their work on this page of their website.

Related Materials:

Evaluator:

Beverly Farr, PhD
Director of Evaluation
MPR Associates, Inc
www.mprinc.org

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