A new report addresses a thorny dilemma regarding the measurement of student success in so-called Early College programs. These initiatives, which enroll high school kids in college courses, have consistently shown promise, but most studies raise eyebrows since the programs tend to involve volunteer students (and, significantly, ambitious parents). Such young individuals are already more likely to succeed, by definition.
However, a new study from the American Institutes for Research compared randomized students to the rest. Please have a look. The project was launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2002, so it measures student success over a substantial period of time, at a number of institutions. This takes serious resources. Enter Gates.
Importantly, the study does not involve dual credit courses—a whole other deal, and just as susceptible to the same cherry-picking. Randomization and perennial consistency are essential if pilot statistics are to be taken seriously for extrapolation to a large population.
College faculty also report anecdotal success with Early College youth. So far, however, as noted above, most such students are those who have already demonstrated promising ability and a strong inclination to succeed. The challenge is in finding a program that works for everyone. Maybe the AIR study is a step in the right direction.