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The effect of participation in a Title V program on Latinx student success at a community college (Lacagnino 2019)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Lacagnino, S. N. (2019). The effect of participation in a Title V program on Latinx student success at a community college. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to determine the impact of participation in the Project Accel program on education outcomes for community college students.
  • The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who participated in the Project Accel program with those who did not, based on administrative data from the community college. Using several demographic characteristics, the author created a matched comparison group of students who were not in the program to assess the effectiveness of the program on course completion, program persistence, and fall-to-fall retention.
  • For the accelerated English as a Second Language (ESL) program, the study found that program participation was significantly related to higher completion, persistence, and retention rates. For the accelerated developmental English program, the study found that program participation was significantly related to higher completion and persistence rates.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Project Accel program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Project Accel program

Features of the Intervention

A mid-Atlantic public community college, federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), received a five-year Title V grant to fund accelerated developmental English and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, called Project Accel. The Title V grants, also called “Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Programs”, are competitive grants designed to help HSIs increase student success by addressing a challenge facing their institution. Project Accel was designed to implement accelerated developmental English and accelerated ESL programs.

Students were eligible for the accelerated developmental English program if they were first-time, full-time students in the fall term and placed into developmental English based on the ACCUPLACER college placement exam. The comparison group students had to meet the same criteria of being a first-time, full-time student in the fall and placed into developmental English. Students were eligible for the ESL program if they were full time in the fall term and placed into level 5 ESL based on a college placement exam or if they completed the level 4 ESL program. The comparison group students had to meet the same criteria of being full-time in the fall and placed into ESL courses.

Features of the Study

The author matched Project Accel participants to similar nonparticipants using propensity scores developed from baseline demographic information. The treatment group included 319 students in the English program and 76 in the ESL program. The comparison group included 2,446 students who enrolled in the developmental English courses and 537 students who enrolled in ESL courses. The author received demographic and academic record data from the community college's research office. The outcomes included course completion rates (first attempt grades of D or better in the developmental English and ESL courses), fall-to-fall retention rates (re-enrollment in the fall semester of the next academic year), and student persistence rates (enrollment and successful completion of each course in the developmental English or ESL course sequence). The author used chi-square and t-test statistics to examine differences between the groups.

Findings

Education and skills gain

  • For the accelerated developmental English program, the study found a significant relationship between program participation and course completion with 83.1% of treatment students completing the course compared to 66.1% of comparison students.
  • The study also found a significant relationship between program participation and persistence rates with 81.5% of students in the accelerated developmental English group persisting in the program compared to 55.8% of students in the comparison group. No statistically significant relationship was found for retention.
  • For the accelerated ESL program, the study found a significant relationship between program participation and course completion with 96.1% of treatment students completing the course compared to 62.5% of comparison students.
  • The study found a significant relationship between participation in the accelerated ESL program and persistence rates (93.4% of treatment students and 57.9% of comparison students) and retention rates (73.1% of treatment students and 50% of comparison students).

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

While the study used a matched comparison group design, the author did not account for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and comparison groups. The author matched on age, gender, race/ethnicity, and financial aid but did not match on pre-intervention academic achievement or control for it in the analyses. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the intervention— could explain the observed differences in outcomes.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention and did not include control variables to account for differences between the treatment and comparison groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Project Accel program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

January 2020

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