EducationAL Policies & Interventions

Chukhray, I., Holzman, B., Ankoor, N., & Li, D. (2019). "Finishing What My Parents Started: College Aspirations among EMERGE Students." Houston Education Research Consortium, Rice University.
EMERGE is a college access program for talented but underserved high school students. EMERGE aims to encourage students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds (economically disadvantaged, first-generation college-going, or both) to attend selective colleges and universities since disadvantaged students are prone to academic undermatch—enrolling in a postsecondary institution less selective than their qualifications may allow. In spring 2018, we interviewed 26 high school sophomores recently accepted to EMERGE to understand what factors drove students’ college search processes. Through our interviews, we learned that students felt college was essential to a “better life” and thought of it as a way to repay their parents financially and to honor their sacrifices. However, students felt constrained in their college searches, particularly by the cost of college and a sense of obligation to family. Finally, the students we interviewed expressed excitement at their acceptance into EMERGE, describing it as a life-changing opportunity.
Study in Progress: STEM Pathways from Middle and High School into College
The project will trace STEM pathways from middle and high school into college. There are four components:
  1. Who Lives in a STEM Desert?
  2. Who Chooses the STEM Endorsement?
  3. The Role of Gender in STEM Endorsement Choice & Change over Time
  4. STEM Endorsement Completion and the Pathway to College

Related products: policy brief | blog post
Study in Progress: Texts4Teens: A Middle School Parent Engagement Text Messaging Study
In this study, we are fielding a text messaging experiment in a South Texas school district in which parents in the treatment group receive three text messages per week on how to engage their child’s academic and socioemotional trajectory as they transition from middle school to high school. The study site is a majority Latino school district in which most students are socioeconomically disadvantaged and English learners. We conducted a pilot study in spring 2019, and received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to implement a randomized controlled trial during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. In fall 2020, we will add two additional school districts to the study. After the pilot, we surveyed parents and learned they found the text messaging curriculum useful. Beyond that utility, we hope our low-touch intervention can help close gaps in academic achievement and college preparation by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and EL status.
Study in Progress: Causal Effects of Information and Personal Assistance on Selective College Outcomes
There is a growing debate in social science and education policy research on how to improve college outcomes for high-achieving students from low-income or first-generation backgrounds. While some studies suggest that providing information to students impacts college outcomes, other studies do not and suggest that students may need more support in the college application process. Using a regression discontinuity research design with a layered randomized controlled trial, this study examines how information and personal assistance impact college application behaviors and enrollment decisions among low-income and first-generation high school students in a large urban school district. The results show that an intensive, multi-year college access program has large, positive effects on applying to a selective college, the number of applications submitted to selective colleges, and enrollment in a selective college. In contrast, a low-touch information packet intervention shows null effects on these outcomes. Implications for future nudge interventions and scaling up social capital interventions are discussed.