Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 Idaho School District Advanced Placement Results

In 2014, 9,556 Advanced Placement exams were taken by 5443 Idaho students (about 13% of Idaho's juniors and seniors). Idaho's exam numbers had been increasing for the past few years, but in 2014 decreased slightly.

The percentage of exams scored "3" or above, an indicator of eligibility for college credit or waiver, stood at 66% in 2014, down slightly from the 69% "pass rate" of 2009. The national "pass rate" on these rigorous exams in 2014 was 59%.

Advanced Placement is the "gold standard" of post-secondary dual credit programs because of the rigorous nature of its exams, offered in 34 subject areas, and because AP scores are accepted for credit by the vast majority of colleges around the country. The most popular exams in Idaho in 2014 were English Language and Composition (1867), English Literature and Composition (1148), U.S. History (1120), and Calculus AB (912).

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Idaho students taking AP exams were from the Boise District, which has 9% of statewide enrollment::

Sixty-one Idaho school districts, over half the statewide total, gave no Advanced Placement exams in 2014. Only 15 districts gave over 100 exams. Boise gave 3234 exams, about 35% of the statewide total.

Since most Idaho districts are relatively small, a good way to look at commitment to rigor in Idaho districts is to compare the number of students participating in at least one AP test with the total number of juniors and seniors in the district. To account for extremely small numbers , we used just districts which gave 50 or more exams in 2014.

Blaine County, Boise, McCall, and Vallivue each had over 30% of juniors and seniors take at least one Advanced Placement exam. Vallivue is particularly notable in that they have made a substantial commitment to rigor in the past decade, implementing new AP courses, expanding opportunities, and initiating the AVID program.

Finally, many districts nationwide have expanded opportunities for students to take Advanced Placement coursework and exams. As indicated, passing percentages have declined slightly in Idaho, as more students have experienced the rigor of coursework and exams 

The Madison School District (Rexburg) had an amazing 96% pass rate on 111 AP exams in 2014. However, only 11% of Madison juniors and seniors took an AP exam, compared with Blaine County, where 47% of juniors and seniors took at least one AP exam.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Clearinghouse Findings on Factors in College Entry, Science & Engineering Majors

The National Student Clearinghouse provides a variety of services to schools districts and universities around the country, including a tracking service used to calculate reliable college-entry and retention rates. The Boise District has used Clearinghouse services since 2005.

The Clearinghouse has a research group that is increasingly producing interesting reports about patterns of college attendance and graduation patterns nationwide. An article today in the Huffington Post by Jennifer Klein told of an NSC research report indicating that poverty is the strongest factor influencing college attendance, regardless of minority or rural/urban status of the school. Here is the NSC research report, in which the college enrollment patterns of over 3.5 million students were studied.

Though few would be surprised by the findings in the NSC report, it points up the importance of scholarship and grant opportunities for students with potential such as Capital alum Kristie Hoang, last year's Bev and George Harad AVID scholarship winner, who's attending the University of Southern California this fall.

NSC researchers have also done analyses of Science and Engineering degree patterns among students nationwide in their database. One article examines patterns of Science and Engineering degrees by gender, and finds that degree completions are increasing rapidly for both women and men, and that the percentages by gender of S & E degree completion are equivalent.

However, the study includes social science and psychology degrees in the Science and Engineering category. When the data are broken down, 81% of Engineering degrees are attained by males, a statistic that has not changed since 2009. The percentages in other areas: Math and Computer Science, 74% male, and Physical Sciences and Earth and Ocean Sciences, 62% males.

On the other hand, 58% of Biological and Ag Science degrees and 62% of Social Science and Psychology degrees were attained by females.

Friday, October 3, 2014

BSU Retention, 6-Year Grad Rates Soar

It’s a big ship to turn, but Boise State personnel are making significant progress in retention and graduation rate among their undergraduate students. BSU’s retention rate from freshman to sophomore year has improved by 13 percent in the past decade, from 62% for the class of 2003 to 75% for the class of 2013. The First-time Full-time 6-year graduation rate, as reported to the National Council for Education Statistics and featured on the College Navigator site, increased by 9% from the class of 2006 to the class of 2008, and is up 15% over the last 9 graduating classes.

In fact, the graduation rate improvement is among the best in the nation among 4-year schools. If you think about a 9% gain in terms of an entering class of 5000 at BSU, that’s 450 more 6-year graduates in 2014 than in 2012. Exciting news for Treasure Valley students and parents.

When comparing to peer institutions in the west, BSU’s grad rate growth outpaced Portland State University (+4%), and Fresno State University (0%), and was higher than every peer institution to which BSU compares itself.

Other Idaho universities made growth as well, as you can see in the chart below:

Boise State Vice President Dr. Sharon McGuire illuminated some of the process improvements made at BSU which have likely affected retention and graduation rates, many of which came from the recommendations of a Student Success Task Force in 2005. Here are a few of the actions taken:
  • Hiring a person to oversee the undergraduate experience at BSU
  • Increasing course capacity to support progress toward degrees
  • Developing waitlists for students wanting to take courses that were full
  • Requiring advising sessions for all first year students
  • Promoting a “Finish in Four” program to encourage students to complete their degrees in four years. 
  • Adding additional advisor positions to support general and college-based advising
  • Expanding the new student summer orientation to a two-day overnight experience to build community and focus on academics
  • Increasing opportunities for first-year seminars, leaning communities, and residential colleges
  • Developing early warning systems in a number of first-year courses to identify and support students who are struggling
  • Restructuring early math courses to increase student time with instructors, increase instructor preparation and training, and better assess current student knowledge.
  • Prompting students to review their Academic Advisement Report at 30, 60, and 90 credits to keep students on-track for graduation. 
  • Enhanced academic support in traditionally difficult courses by offering peer facilitated session 
  • Contacting students who are eligible to enroll but have not to inquire about barriers which might be impacting their registration.
  • Offering faculty development activities through the Center for Teaching and Learning and college-based initiatives to help foster student learning and persistence.
Clearly, the folks at BSU would say that more improvement is needed. But what they’ve put in place is working, and benefitting students. Congrats, Boise State!