Running Start generates strong feelings and contradictory hypotheses. Here are some data that bear on the relative academic virtues of Running Start students at EvCC. These tables show the proportions of students who received a grade lower than a C. Students in the ORCA program have been excluded.

The first table shows that Running Start students have consistently passed English 101 at higher rates than other students and that the difference between Running Start and regular students has narrowed as a result of improved pass rates by regular students. The second table shows that the failure rate in Math is generally higher for all students, but as in English, Running Start students consistently outperform other students. The math time series is shorter because Math 141 was not offered prior to 2008.

The following two tables show the data broken down into quarters and also provide sample sizes. If you click on the tables you will see a larger versions. One interesting feature of these data is that in the past few years the Running Start advantage in English appears to be restricted to fall quarter.

I hope these data will generate conversation. What do you think these data tell us about Running Start? How else could we look at the data? How might similar data look for other courses?

Fascinating data. Was there a big policy change in 2010-2011 that may have prompted the sudden decrease in performance of Running Start students in Engl 101? Perhaps a lowering of entry standards? That post did do a lot to address some of the incorrect assumptions I’d been having about Running Start students. Thanks for posting!

Very interesting, especially in the sense where it negates some conjectures I would have while reinforcing others.

A possible interpretation is that the motivation level is higher in general for Running Start students. The theory would be that there is a higher “barrier to entry” for Running Start students than for the overall population based on the need to show greater initiative and complete more steps in order to be in the program. This would lead to a self-selection toward more motivated students who are more capable of following through on their plans. How would one test that theory? Not sure…

Of course the original premise of Running Start was that a student had to have a well above-average GPA in order to take part in the program – because it was designed to be an academic advancement program and not one of cost savings.

While that is not particularly true any more, is it possible that there is a lingering effect in the High School system where more encouragement is given to high achievers to sign up for Running Start than is given to low performers?

Another interesting possibility is that the demographic of Running Start may be skewed toward more economically and culturally advantaged students. This would be an interesting comparison to make. What is the gap between the two groups when factoring in the family’s financial circumstances? The educational history of the parents? Single-parent vs. 2-parent households? Home-schooled vs. public schools? Of course we may not collect all that data. I would be intrigued to see what those numbers might tell us, though.

No doubt a lot of inferences can be made from this data. I wonder exactly why Running Start students pass ENG 101 and Math 141 at higher rates than “regular” students. My contention is that Running Start students pass ENG 101 and Math 141 at higher rates because they have more time to study than other students. Better / recent academic preparation could be another factor which contributes to their higher success rate.