by Michael Johnson
CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Dane County
Every year the Wisconsin Hope Lab conducts a world class evaluation on our partnership with MMSD through the AVID/TOPS Program
Their evaluation of AVID/ TOPS which is a partnership with Boys & Girls Club and MMSD. The evaluation revealed positive, and in some cases sizable program impacts on key measures of college readiness for high school students. These impacts included increased cumulative GPAs, higher probability of participation in AP/ honors courses, improved class attendance, and greater numbers of earned credits as freshmen. Such impacts support the notion that AVID/TOPS is both enhancing the desire of participants to attend college, and improving their chances of academic success once they are enrolled.
There is evidence that AVID/ TOPS increased the cumulative GPAs of participants. This was particularly true among low-income students, Hispanic students, low-income students of color, and male students of color. At the District level, AVID/TOPS participants earned cumulative GPAs around one-tenth of a grade point higher on average than those in the comparison group. Hispanic students participating in AVID/TOPS earned GPAs almost one-fifth of a grade point higher compared to their matched peer group on average. In the core courses of math, English, science, and social studies, AVID/ TOPS students tended to achieve slightly higher GPAs than their comparison group counterparts.’
They found evidence that the program led participants to enroll in more challenging coursework. At the district level, and in each of the focal subgroups, students participating in AVID/TOPS were significantly more likely to enroll in AP and honors courses than their comparison group peers. At the district level, average AP/honors enrollment for AVID/TOPS students was 12 percentage points higher that the comparison group. The two subgroups experiencing the largest AVID/TOPS impacts on AP/ honors enrollment were Hispanic students who outpaced their peers by 17 percentage points, and low-income students of color who exceeded their peers by 14 percentage points.
Increased likelihood of enrollment in AP/honors courses did not appear to be accompanied by a corresponding increase in AP/honors course performance among AVID/ TOPS students, however. At the district level, and in most subgroups, AVID/TOPS students earned essentially the same average GPA in their AP/honors courses as their comparison group counterparts.
There is evidence that program participation resulted in fewer unexcused days absent from school On average, AVID/TOPS students missed 2.5 fewer days of school than their comparison group peers. The impact was largest for male students of color, who missed nearly 4 fewer days of school. The program also appeared to Increase the overall attendance rates of participants, both at the district level and across most focal subgroups
There is evidence that AVID/TOPS increased the number of credits earned by participants in the ninth. On average AVID/TOPS students earned about half a credit more at the district level and across all subgroups compared to their matched peers.’AVID/TOPS students also continued to outperform their peers when it came to failed courses. At the district level and across most subgroups, AVID/ TOPS students failed one fewer course in their ninth-grade year than comparison group students on average.
They also find evidence that the program has consistently and significantly increased the number of credits low-income participants earn in the ninth grade— about half a credit on average. Low-income participants have also been significantly less likely to fail courses in the ninth grade, logging an average of around one less failed course than their matched counterparts.
They Estimated that the program has consistently improved attendance rates among Hispanic students, both in terms of their unexcused absent days and in terms of overall attendance rates. Hispanic students participating in the program have logged between 2 and 3.5 fewer unexcused absent days on average each year compared to their non-program peers. Participants’ improved attendance rates have remained relatively steady at around two percentage points higher than the comparison group from one year to the next.
We find that the effect of program participation on enrollment in AP and honors courses among low-income students of color significantly increased between 2013 and 2015. Our estimates indicate that the effect size more than doubled over that three-year period, from 6% in 2013 to 15% in 2015.
Finally, they estimate that the program has significantly increased the number of credits low-income students of color earn as ninth graders—an effect equivalent to about half a credit more on average each year. This was in part due to their consistently lower rates of failed courses during freshman year.