RD332 - Evaluation of Project Discovery Post-Secondary Education Access Program – September 2016
Project Discovery has been providing its post-secondary-education access programming for nearly three decades. Currently the program is administered through 19 partner agencies throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. This evaluation assesses multiple aspects of Project Discovery's programming to determine the effect of program activities on its central emphases:
• Participants' (students and parents) attitudes toward and understanding of the avenues that lead to post-secondary education.
• Students' readiness to apply to a post-secondary institution.
• Students' likelihood to enroll in a post-secondary institution.
• Students' likelihood to earn credit in a post-secondary institution within 16 months of high school graduation.
In addition, this evaluation considers Project Discovery's influence on students' likelihood of graduating with a college degree.
Analysis of the program unfolded in two phases in accord with the program's logic model. Phase one examined the impact of Project Discovery curriculum and program activities on the attitudes of participants. Phase two examined the educational outcomes of Project Discovery participants in comparison to peer groups in the Commonwealth of Virginia and nationally.
Findings from attitudinal analysis:
Drawing from pre- and post-survey data of Project Discovery students and their parents, analysis indicates that the program has a positive impact on knowledge of and attitudes related to the following:
• Understanding the benefit of post-secondary education.
• Process of applying to a post-secondary institution.
• Availability of resources to help pay for post-secondary education.
Findings from State & National Comparisons:
Project Discovery (PD) participants enrolled in college at a higher rate than their at-risk peers - both in Virginia and nationally- for the high-school graduating classes of 2010, 2011, and 2012.
• 66% of the 2010 PD cohort enrolled in college within 16 months while 59% of at-risk students did so across Virginia as a whole.
• 66% of the 2011 PD cohort enrolled in college within 16 months while 59% of at-risk students did so across Virginia as a whole.
• 64% of the 2012 PD cohort enrolled in college within 16 months while 56% of at-risk students did so across Virginia as a whole.
• Nationally, under half of potential first-generation college students enroll in college within 16 months – but 63% of the first-generation students served by Project Discovery did so.
Project Discovery (PD) participants also graduated from college at a higher rate than their at-risk peers across the United States.
• Nationwide, 37% of enrolled first-generation students with low incomes earn a degree within six years.
• In the 2010 PD cohort of first-generation, low-income participants that just completed its sixth year beyond high school, 45% of these students attained a degree.
• Furthermore, although only five years have passed for the 2011 PD cohort, 42% of those at-risk students have already attained a degree.
This report concludes by proposing a new monitoring and evaluation plan. It is recommended that Project Discovery implement an even more detailed evaluation plan to examine more directly the causal linkages between activities at the local level and desired program outcomes. An additional annual survey can be conducted to gather data on a few dynamics that are not currently measured systematically – such as the level of collaboration and communication between program staff and local school-based personnel. This evaluation effort can be bolstered by the creation and maintenance of an expanded database that brings together information from multiple sources.