Working to my potential: Experience of CPS students in the IB Diploma Programme (2012)

Consortium for Chicago School Research—University of Chicago

In the 1990s Chicago Public Schools (CPS) implemented International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programmes (DP) in 12 neighbourhood high schools throughout the city serving predominantly low income, racial/ethnic minority students with little to no history of college-going. As part of the multi-year Chicago Postsecondary Transition project, this study examines the impact of Chicago’s IB programmes on the postsecondary outcomes and experiences of CPS graduates. Quantitative analysis was used to examine whether DP students are more likely to enroll in four-year colleges, enroll in more selective four-year colleges and persist for at least two years in a four-year college than students not enrolled in the DP but with similar characteristics. Qualitative analysis of student interview data was used to better understand the DP students’ experiences in college, self-reports of their capability to succeed in college-level coursework and their broader challenges during their transition to college.  The sample used for the post-secondary analysis included 18,075 CPS graduates from 122 CPS high schools between 2003 and 2007.Included in this sample were 1,888 DP students and 2,589 students who started the “pre-IB” cohort in the 9th grade but did not continue into DP in the 11th grade. Data for the qualitative analysis focused on a sub-sample of 25 students in the DP, selected to reflect the racial/ethnic diversity of IB students across the city. Findings indicate that students who are in the DP are more likely to enroll in college, more likely to enroll in a more selective college and more likely to stay enrolled, compared to matched non-IB students. When controlling for college characteristics, analysis suggests that IB students are both going to better colleges at higher rates and performing better once there. Overall, the DP students interviewed generally felt that they were academically well-prepared to engage and succeed in college coursework, and described strong analytical writing and math preparation, motivation, work habits, organization and time management as strengths. This research suggests DP students in CPS experience stronger, more demanding and more supportive learning environments than similar students in honours programmes or selective enrollment high schools.

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