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Research on Early College Math and English Instruction (2009-10)


 In 2008, Jobs for the Future (JFF), a nonprofit organization based in Boston, engaged leaders of the early college high school initiative (ECHSI) in a discussion about research topics that would be of greatest interest to them in developing their innovative schools. Early college high schools are designed to offer students the opportunity to take a blend of high school and college courses, allowing them to graduate from high school with a year or more of college credit earned. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of this initiative, had agreed to support two research projects of high importance to the schools.

 Two topics were identified: 1) a study of why some students leave ECHSI schools before graduating, and  2) a study of math and English instruction in ECHSI schools that prepares students to enter and succeed in college classes.


About the Project

 NCREST was selected to design and implement a study to address the second question with a focus on instructional practices likely to result in successful student performance in college. We focused on two research questions: 

  1. What are the characteristics of English and mathematics courses in early college high schools that prepare students for college-level introductory courses?
  1. What strategies, practices, and academic supports do teachers and schools use to accelerate the progress of students who are underprepared in these content areas? 

This study occurred in three interrelated phases and employed a mixed methods research approach.   

  • First, surveys of English and mathematics instructors in early college high schools were administered and analyzed, along with existing data from the ECHSI Integrated School Survey.  
  • In the second phase, we collected information that highlighted critical school, social, and cultural factors that could influence teaching and learning through a series of four focus group interviews with English and mathematics instructors. 
  • In the third phase, we conducted site visits to four early college high schools to learn about their instruction of college preparatory English and math. 

A final report was created describing the research questions, methods, findings and implications.


For more information, contact Elisabeth Barnett at

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