Initiative seeks ways to prep students for postsecondary success

“This research project is essential to advancing our understanding of how we can help improve the lives of students across the country,” said Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners. “We know the complexities and difficulties involved in researching the effects across states of national programs like GEAR UP,” Larimore said. “A research partnership like CCREC is an important model for successfully addressing such difficulties, and we are excited to be associated with the project.”

The project will produce a series of reports. The first, Core Research Program: Results from the First Wave of the Base Year Data Collection, released by ACT, establishes a baseline for estimating the effect of GEAR UP on low-income students in grades 7-12 by comparing them to similar students not served by the program.

The report includes descriptive data and narrative discussions on student background characteristics, baseline academic achievement, educational plans, and self-reported educational needs.

The joint project will let the partners link various types of data to show the connection between GEAR UP services aimed and the actual educational outcomes of 120,000 students who use those services across the 14 states in the CCREC: Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

“Each of the 14 CCREC states knows, first hand, the substantial difference GEAR UP has made in the lives of thousands of low-income students seeking post-high school educational opportunity,” said Teena Olszewski, CCREC’s Executive Committee co-chair and Arizona GEAR UP director at Northern Arizona University. “Collectively pooling our data across states is an unprecedented and courageous commitment to the important role and value of rigorous research and evaluation to college access programs generally and GEAR UP programs nationally.”

The data in the first report establish a baseline for comparisons over time by using common benchmarks for college and career readiness over the 14 CCREC states. Future reports will analyze high school and postsecondary educational outcomes.

“We are grateful to ACT and to NCCEP for their partnership and look forward to the continuous lessons and improvements to come in the years ahead with the ongoing benefit of their support and expertise,” Olszewski said.

The first research report and more detailed information about the project scope can be downloaded free from the ACT website.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione