Succeeding freshman year: rise up connectedness and science learner identity study
Miller, Andrew Rowan
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This study focuses on at-risk students entering 9th grade in Cambridge, MA and ways to increase their connectedness and science learner identity. At-risk students were invited to participate in a research-based, summer intervention program called Rise Up for four weeks prior to entering 9th grade in the fall. Students were grouped into three categories, at-risk students who participated in the program, Rise Up Participants (RUPs), at-risk students who were Eligible Non-Participants (ENPs), and students who were not considered at-risk based on their 7th grade MCAS scores, Proficients. The study found the RUPs were performing lower on standardized tests compared to the ENPs prior to the intervention. Secondary measures of academic success such as attendance and behavior showed no significant difference. By the end of the first semester freshmen year, the RUPs were statistically the same as the ENPs in terms of grades. RUPs’ attendance and behavior records were found to fall in between the higher-achieving Proficients and the lower-level ENPs. Science grades for RUPs during the first semester were higher than the ENPs but any degree of higher achievement was diminished by the end of the year. RUPs demonstrated consistent to increasing degrees of academic connectedness from the summer through freshmen year. ENPs and Proficients showed decreased academic connectedness from the beginning to the end of freshmen year. One posited explanation for the RUPs steady connectedness scores may be adjusted expectations for freshmen year. This theme emerged from the focus group interviews with RUPs and ENPs in the fall and in the spring. All three groups, RUPs, ENPs, and Proficients, showed a strong correlation between academic connectedness and science learner identity. Similar to attendance and behaviors, RUPs started freshmen year demonstrating science learner identity in between the Proficients and the ENPs. RUPs with higher scores than ENPs diminished throughout the course of freshmen year. Other demographic variables were investigated. Science learner identity in the fall showed no significant difference based on race regardless of participation in the summer intervention. However, by the end of freshmen year, interest in science showed stratification between overrepresented and underrepresented populations. Grades showed a widening divide between Proficients and at-risk groups throughout freshmen. Possible causes and recommendations are discussed.
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