Forming Better STEM Career Trajectories: Sustaining and Scaling-Up CAP

This study investigates the sustainability of the College Ambition Program (CAP) that has demonstrated promise in increasing the number of students who attend postsecondary colleges or universities. The CAP is a whole school high school intervention that promotes a college-going culture in which all students are provided resources that encourage postsecondary attendance with a special emphasis on STEM.

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This study investigates the sustainability of the Michigan State University College Ambition Program (CAP) that has been developed with NSF ITEST funding and has demonstrated promise in increasing the number of students who attend postsecondary colleges or universities. The CAP is a whole school high school intervention that promotes a college-going culture in which all students are provided resources that encourage postsecondary attendance with a special emphasis on STEM. CAP is an integrated program including tutoring and mentoring, course counseling and advising, financial aid planning and assistance; and college visits. The modifications for sustainability include moving the CAP functions from the graduate students from the university and the faculty who developed the intervention to high school teachers and preservice teachers. Tutoring would be provided by peers rather than the undergraduate students in previous studies.

The CAP research study is a within study experiment using student-level estimates of program effects. In this study, students will be randomlly encouraged to receive CAP services through the use of a targeted "nudge". The nudge is in the spirit of an encouragement design where intention to treat does not precisely coincide with actual treatment due to noncompliance, but the assignment mechanism still provides for variation in the treatment. The nudge experiment is modeled after comparable trials in health care research. The experiment is a type of standard randomized block design, in which students are assigned to treatments within blocks defined as schools. Students are encouraged to use CAP services which include an app that helps them decide which college is the best fit for them. Outcome measures include post secondary matriculation and student motivation and career planning data.

This study is intended to examine the efficacy of the CAP program and has the potential to inform practice, policy and research. It is difficult to study whole school interventions, and this study is testing the methodology to detect an effect of the CAP intervention by assigning students randomly to experimental conditions within the intervention. The potential benefits of the study are alternatives to the gold standard randomized controlled study where the school is the unit of assignment and the unit of analysis. Successful findings support the potential for rigorous studies to be conducted with fewer schools in the sample than traditional power analyses indicate.

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