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ERIC Number: ED564100
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 9
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 6
The Challenge of Senior Year in Chicago Public Schools: A Mixed-Methods Study of Coursetaking and Its Effects on College Outcomes
Kelley-Kemple, Thomas; Moeller, Eliza; Roderick, Melissa
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued in a 2010 address to the College Board, "High schools must shift from being last stop destinations for students on their education journey to being launching pads for further growth and lifelong learning for all students. The mission of high schools can no longer be to simply get students to graduate. Their expanded mission… must also be to ready students for careers and college." What will it take to meet this challenge? Senior year in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) presents an interesting dilemma in this changing educational landscape. While all CPS graduates take what might be termed a college preparatory curriculum in order to fulfill graduation requirements, those requirements can largely be fulfilled by junior year. This leaves senior year as the only year in high school with little guidance about what courses students should take--and also leaves space for a great deal of variation in students' enrollment in advanced coursework like a fourth year of math or an AP course. These senior year coursework decisions could be critical for college access and success. This study has taken an in-depth look at senior year coursetaking patterns in CPS. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, researchers examine both the effects senior year coursetaking has on college outcomes and student reports of their experiences in senior year. Specifically, researchers quantitatively ask what effect AP courses, a fourth year of math, or a high concentration of core subjects in a student's senior year schedule can have on enrolling in a four-year college, enrolling in a more selective four-year college, and persisting in a four-year college for two years. Qualitatively, researchers examine the level of challenge reported by students in individual classes, as well as across senior year. Analysis is run across separate achievement subgroups in order to observe any heterogeneity of treatment effects based on student achievement. The quantitative portion of this study focused on 30,649 CPS graduates from the graduating cohorts of 2003-2007. The current study uses data on students' backgrounds, test scores, and coursetaking patterns, as well as school compositional data. In order to identify whether graduates enroll in college in the fall after graduation, the kinds of colleges they attend, and their two-year persistence rates, researchers use data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). This study leads to a number of seemingly contradictory findings: (1) Although there are some courses, like AP, that help students gain access to college, they do not seem to have any effect on persistence; (2) Though AP courses stood out as distinctly challenging to students, there is no evidence of long-term positive effects for these classes; and (3) It is surprising that even students who took challenging advanced courses still typically described senior year as unchallenging. Tables and a figure are appended.
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208. Tel: 202-495-0920; Fax: 202-640-4401; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE)
Identifiers - Location: Illinois