This descriptive and exploratory study investigates the factors that influence the decisions that students make about taking college-level courses in high school. While the study examines the decisions of high school students from across the distribution of student achievement, it pays particular attention to the decisions of students in the academic middle. Ten factors with the potential to influence those decisions were identified through a review of relevant literature on college readiness, high school reform, academic motivation and adolescent decision making. To capture students' perspectives on those potential factors, a survey was developed and administered in a diverse group of seven high schools in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area in the spring of 2012. Qualitative data were also gathered at two of those schools, both of which were large suburban high schools. Through the focus groups and interviews conducted at those schools, two additional factors that could influence student decisions about college-level course taking were identified. The study concludes that the following three factors are highly influential in shaping students' decisions about taking college-level courses: (1) the economic incentives of earning college credit in high school, (2) the signals that higher education institutions send to high school students, and (3) the level of effort that students exert in school. The study also concludes that insufficient access to college-level courses is not a major factor in students' course taking decisions at any of the schools that were studied. Finally, the study concludes that the following factors play a moderate role in course taking decisions, but that further research is needed to more precisely determine the degree and type of influence these factors exert: The course registration process;An inherent college-going orientation; Students' actual and perceived level of academic readiness; Interaction with adults at school; Interaction with parents; Interaction with peers; Commitments outside of school; The learning environment in college-level courses; Interest in the subject being studied.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. May 2012. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Dr. K.S. Louis. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 230 pages, appendices A-G.
Pekel, Kent Stephen.
To take or not to take: factors that influence the decisions that students make about taking college-level courses in high school.
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