May 2023 Research Rundown
By Madie Spartz
Welcome to the return of the Research Rundown, EdAllies’ curated list of recent research we think is worth adding to the education equity conversation. This month, in honor of the conclusion of the 2023 legislative session, we’re sharing research on topics that dominated many education committee hearings this session, including:
- teacher diversity,
- pathways to teaching, and
- programs offering college credit to high school students
Assessing College-Credit-in-High-School Programs as On-Ramps to Postsecondary Career Pathways for Underrepresented Students
Community College Research Center, April 2023
In a research brief published by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, researchers examined the effectiveness of programs that grant college credit to high school students. They used existing research to look at the five most popular models and assess how well they serve students who are historically underrepresented in postsecondary pathways—specifically students of color, students from low-income families, English learners, and students with disabilities.
The five programs examined in the report are:
- Advanced placement (AP) classes, in which students take an exam at the end of the course and may receive college credit if they score above a threshold
- International baccalaureate (IB), an international standardized curriculum that students follow during high school, with a cumulative exam that may result in college credit if a student scores above a threshold
- Dual enrollment, where students take college classes through a partner college or university
- Early college high schools (ECHSs) and pathways in technology early college high schools (P-TECHs), where high schools partner with local colleges or universities to allow students to receive an Associate’s degree or two years of college credit upon high school graduation
- Career and technical education programs (CTE) with articulated credit, where students explore specific career fields and develop technical skills
The authors found that underrepresented students who took part in ECHSs and P-TECHs had the strongest college enrollment outcomes. These results were found via a randomized control trial study, considered the “gold standard” in research practices. While the findings are promising, the authors note that these programs tend to be relatively small in scale, reaching fewer students than other programs in the analysis.
Larger programs like AP and dual enrollment have the ability to reach more students and both report “moderate” levels of college success among participants, but tend to be more inequitable in terms of which students access them. The authors found correlation between IB participation and college success, but further research is needed to understand whether there was a causal effect. High school CTE programs had moderate evidence of college success and strong evidence of job market benefits for students who used them, but the authors also noted that relatively few students who earned college credit through such programs were actually able to use it, raising questions about the effectiveness of credit articulation agreements.
Why This Matters in Minnesota
Postsecondary disparities persist in our state, where students of color are less likely than white students to have access to rigorous coursework or enroll in college. The benefits of higher education are broad, from higher lifetime earnings and greater economic stability to better health outcomes and higher civic engagement. Those benefits are not experienced equitably by all Minnesotans, however, given that Indigenous, Black, and Latino Minnesotans earn Bachelor’s degrees at lower rates than their peers. College credit granting programs for high school students present a real opportunity to increase access to higher education, but they must be accessible to a large number of students and implemented equitably.
As we wrote about recently, dual credit and other college access programs were largely left off the table this legislative session. While the legislature did pass a landmark policy to cover tuition for families earning less than $80,000, expanded access to higher education shouldn’t stop there. College credit programs have a dual benefit of saving students tuition money and preparing them for the academic rigor of higher education. It’s critical that legislators revisit these policies next session and beyond to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to the benefits of higher education.
Teachers Like Us: Strategies for Increasing Educator Diversity in Public Schools
FutureEd, February 2023
A report by FutureEd, an education policy think tank out of Georgetown University, explores the research on diversity in the teacher workforce and offers strategies for policymakers to increase teacher diversity. The report highlights findings on the benefits of teacher diversity, including improved outcomes for all students, regardless of race, and reduced disparities in discipline. Despite the well-documented benefits of teacher diversity, and the fact that students of color make up more than half of public schools nationwide, teachers of color represent just 20% of the classroom workforce (and even less in some states, like Minnesota).
The author identifies a “porous pipeline” as a contributing factor to low teacher diversity, including the high cost of postsecondary education and teacher training. Black and Latino teachers are more likely to take out loans, owe more on those loans, and have more difficulty repaying them than white teachers. Nationally, only 28% of graduates from traditional training programs are people of color. Once in the classroom, teachers of color report negative work environments more frequently than white teachers, and they exit the classroom at higher rates than their white peers.
The report outlines several strategies for increasing diversity, including deepening support for minority-serving institutions, which have a strong track record of producing teachers of color, expanding pathways into teaching to allow a wider variety of entry points, and increasing funding for professional development, such as leadership opportunities for teachers of color. To read the full list of the author’s recommendations, jump to page 23.
Why This Matters in Minnesota
Minnesota already engages in many of the strategies included in the report, such as residency programs targeting teachers of color, but we still have a long way to go. These policies are a response to the fact that Minnesota’s teacher workforce is far less diverse than the national average, with just 6.6% of teachers identifying as people of color. While this number is still too low, we have seen improvement in recent years. Though we don’t have the data to definitely say why teacher diversity is growing, there are likely several factors—including targeted programming and structural reforms. First, as of 2021, 15% percent of teacher preparation completers were teachers of color. Second, since the implementation of tiered licensure in 2018, Minnesota has seen a steady increase in teachers of color. We know that 25% of Tier 2 license holders are people of color, and that 16% of teachers utilizing the pathway to move from Tier 2 to Tier 3 based on experience were people of color.
Despite these recent improvements, there is still work to do. There were numerous changes and investments during the 2023 legislative session that we should track and build on. For example, Minnesota removed Bachelor’s degree requirements for certain roles, invested in heritage language and special education teacher pipelines, changed licensure testing requirements, and put more funding toward teacher diversity initiatives. State agencies and legislators should track the impact of these efforts, while also continuing to ensure clear pathways that allow teachers of color to enter and advance in the field. One unfortunate change in 2023 was the rollback of certain pathways to a Tier 2 license. Because we know this tier is currently much more diverse than the workforce as a whole, it will be important to track and address how this policy change affects teacher diversity and the entire teacher pipeline in Minnesota.
CTE Teachers and Non-Test Outcomes for Students with and without Disabilities
CALDER Center, February 2023
This working paper by the CALDER Center explores the impact of career & technical education (CTE) teachers in Washington state on non-test outcomes for their students, including attendance, GPA, and on-time graduation. The study examined differences between traditionally-trained CTE teachers and those who came through Washington’s Business & Industry pathway, which brings industry professionals into the classroom without formal teacher prep. The study compared outcomes for students with disabilities and those without, making it the first empirical research study on the relationship between CTE teachers and students with disabilities. There is previous data to suggest that access to CTE coursework brings positive outcomes for students with disabilities, but this study is the first to examine CTE teacher prep as a function of student success.
After controlling for differences among students, the researchers found that students who took CTE with a teacher from the industry had better non-test outcomes than those with a traditionally trained teacher, most notably in better attendance. Students with disabilities had even stronger non-test outcomes when they had a CTE teacher who came from the Business & Industry pathway. These findings are notable, but the research methods used here do have limitations; namely, the teachers in the study were not randomly assigned to different pathways, so it’s possible that other factors influence the difference between the two groups studied. Despite that, the findings in the research are promising and provide insight for policymakers in teacher effectiveness for a previously unstudied group.
Why This Matters in Minnesota
The quality and availability of CTE in high schools is drawing increased attention in Minnesota and nationwide. While legislators closed some non-traditional pathways to advance in teaching careers this session, they also created a Bachelor’s degree exemption for CTE teachers applying for a Tier 1 license, provided they have either a professional certification, Associate’s degree, or five years relevant work experience. Applicants for more stable Tier 2 and 3 licenses also have the Bachelor’s degree exemption, but other provisions in the policy mean they would have to complete a teacher preparation program or licensure via portfolio—a barrier that may keep many qualified CTE teachers on one-year Tier 1 licenses.
Furthermore, the study’s dual focus on outcomes for students with disabilities (and the fact that it’s the first of its kind) highlights the fact that those students are often left out of policy conversations and educational opportunities more broadly. While the most recent legislative session is over and bills have been signed, this research is a reminder that there are always innovative strategies to explore to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Given this study and other evidence that CTE participation can improve later outcomes for students with disabilities, Minnesota should continue investing in these pathways.