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Evaluation of the Smart Scholars Initiative (2013)


In 2007, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the New York State Board of Regents decided to actively support the development of early college high schools and programs to promote improved high school graduation and college-going rates among students from high need populations.  The Board created the Smart Scholars initiative and allocated approximately $12 million to open or re-design 23 schools, as well as to provide them with the support and guidance of EdWorks, an intermediary organization. 

About the Project

NCREST was contracted by the New York State Board of Regents to conduct an evaluation of the Smart Scholars initiative. The evaluation was designed to examine different aspects of the Smart Scholars design, implementation, and outcomes using a mixed methods approach. We were especially interested in learning about how schools went about implementing the Smart Scholars model and the ways in which students were benefiting.

The researchers gathered data in the following ways:

  • Survey of school leaders and faculty: To learn more about schools’ designs, activities, outcomes, and factors that supported or hindered progress, we conducted a survey of all Smart Scholars’ administrators and faculty.
  • School visits: School visits were conducted to learn about a sub-set of the Smart Scholars schools in greater depth. We visited schools representing diverse regions, designs, higher education partners, etc.  Each full-school day visit included interviews and classroom observations.
  • Analysis of student outcomes: To assess the attainment of short and medium term outcomes, we obtained data sets from the Smart Scholars initiative, which allowed us to look at outcomes such as graduation from high school, completion of college credits, and grades earned. We also examined how the outcomes of Smart Scholars students compared to non-Smart Scholar students from the same schools.
  • Synthesis of school report card data: The New York State school report cards contain a wealth of data that can be used in the evaluation. The 2011-12 report cards were analyzed to examine key program features, participant characteristics, and short-term outcomes.
  • Interviews with Smart Scholars leadership: Interviews were conducted with the senior manager for the Smart Scholars project and the intermediary representative.

For more information, contact Elisabeth Barnett at Barnett@tc.columbia.edu.

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