Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Changes in High School Course Taking Patterns Under the Florida College & Career Readiness Initiative

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Christine Mokher and Steve S. Lee, C.N.A. Education
In 2008, the state of Florida launched the Florida College and Career Readiness Initiative (FCCRI) to identify and remediate high school students who needed additional preparation for post-secondary education. During the initial “voluntary phase” of the FCCRI, students locally identified as college-bound were targeted to take college readiness testing in 11th grade and then advised to adjust their coursework in 12th grade pending test results. The FCCRI then shifted into the “mandatory phase” in 2011 when the Florida legislature mandated college readiness assessment in 11th grade and enrollment into college readiness and success (CRS) courses in 12th grade for targeted students. The introduction of CRS courses into high schools creates new course-taking paths to complete graduation requirements. This study will illustrate both the foreseen and unforeseen consequences of the FCCRI’s policies for students at different levels of academic performance. More broadly, since the FCCRI is the first state-wide attempt to require mandatory enrollment into college readiness courses, the findings will carry policy implications for other states as they consider or implement similar policy initiatives.

Using data from Florida’s K-20 data warehouse that covers two cohorts of Florida 11th graders from 2008/09 (the first cohort subject to the voluntary program) and 2011/12 (the first year of the mandatory program), this paper examines changes in course-taking patterns among these two cohorts. In order to detect possible shifts, the analysis first measures changes in course availability at the school level. Since student course taking patterns are conditioned upon the availability of courses, the school level findings will contextualize the student level findings. Then the analysis examines the course-taking patterns of students during the voluntary and mandatory phases of the FCCRI. Students are targeted for participation in the FCCRI if they are in the mid-range of performance on the 10th grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in English or Algebra I end of course (EOC) assessment; however lower and higher-performing students are not prohibited from participating in CRS courses. We examine changes in course-taking patterns for three groups of students based on their academic performance: (1) at-risk, students at-risk of dropping out of high school, (2) targeted, students who are the intended participants in the FCCRI, and (3) college-ready, students who are prepared for college. In addition to the course taking results, the analysis examines scores on the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT), Florida’s college readiness assessment exam, for students who retook the exam in their senior year. Preparation for college level coursework is a central goal of the college readiness courses. The 12th grade PERT results will provide insight into the effectiveness of these courses.

The results show that the course-taking patterns largely follow the expected changes intended by the FCCRI – enrollment in college readiness courses increased while decreased in regular level courses in math and English during the mandatory program. However, unintended shifts in course-taking were found among at-risk students (i.e., scoring a 1 on FCAT reading) who took fewer remedial courses and enrolled in more regular level courses their senior year.