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Opening Doors at Chaffey College - A Success Course for Students on Probation
Last registered on March 16, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Opening Doors at Chaffey College - A Success Course for Students on Probation
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002067
Initial registration date
March 15, 2017
Last updated
March 16, 2017 11:21 AM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
MDRC
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
MDRC
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2006-03-01
End date
2011-11-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Community colleges across the United States face a difficult challenge. On the one hand, they are “open access” institutions, with a mission to serve students from all backgrounds and at varying levels of college readiness. On the other hand, they must uphold high academic standards in order to maintain accreditation and prepare students for employment or transfer to four-year schools. How, then, can community colleges best serve students who want to learn but do not meet minimum academic standards?

Chaffey College, a large community college located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, began to wrestle with this question early in the twenty-first century. Under the auspices of a national demonstration project called Opening Doors, Chaffey developed a program designed to increase probationary students’ chances of succeeding in college. Chaffey’s program included a “College Success” course, taught by a counselor, which provided basic information on study skills and the requirements of college. As part of the course, students were expected to complete five visits to “Success Centers,” where their assignments, linked to the College Success course, covered skills assessment, learning styles, time management, use of resources, and test preparation.

In 2005, MDRC collaborated with Chaffey College to evaluate the one-semester, voluntary Opening Doors program. In 2006, the program was improved to form the two-semester Enhanced Opening Doors program, in which probationary students were told that they were required to take the College Success course. In MDRC’s evaluation of each program, students were randomly assigned either to a program group that had the opportunity to participate in the program or to a control group that received the college’s standard courses and services. The findings include:

-- The message matters — optional program activities had lower participation rates compared with required program activities.
-- Chaffey’s Enhanced Opening Doors program had positive short-term effects. When the two program semesters were complete, students in the program group had earned more credits than students in the control group and were nearly twice as likely as control group students to be in good academic standing.
-- Despite the program’s encouraging short-term effects, it did not meaningfully improve students’ long-term academic outcomes. Four years after the study began, program and control group students had made similar academic progress. Strikingly, during that time, only 7 percent of all students in the study had earned a degree or certificate.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Sommo, Colleen and Michael Weiss. 2017. "Opening Doors at Chaffey College - A Success Course for Students on Probation." AEA RCT Registry. March 16. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2067-1.0.
Former Citation
Sommo, Colleen, Michael Weiss and Michael Weiss. 2017. "Opening Doors at Chaffey College - A Success Course for Students on Probation." AEA RCT Registry. March 16. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2067/history/15041.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The main goals of the program were to help students succeed in their classes, move off academic probation, and ultimately persist in college and earn a degree or transfer to a four-year institution.

The Opening Doors program at Chaffey College comprised three components:
-- College Success course. Taught by a college counselor, this one-semester “guidance” course was designed to help probationary students clarify their personal goals, understand college rules and regulations, and develop better study skills. A two-credit lecture course was linked to a one-credit workshop in which students would apply the principles covered in the lecture. The course’s credits counted toward full-time enrollment in the college and were included in students’ grade point averages, but did not count toward a degree or transfer to a four-year institution. In addition, a voucher was provided to students in the program to cover the cost of College Success course books.
-- Visits to the Success Centers. As part of the College Success course, students were expected to complete nine visits to the college’s Success Centers. These visits included assignments that were linked to the College Success course and covered skills assessment, learning styles, time management, use of resources, and test preparation.
-- Improved counseling. The instructor of the College Success course worked with students during class time and met with them outside of class as needed.
Intervention Start Date
2006-08-15
Intervention End Date
2007-05-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Credits earned, GPA
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Students who met the program’s eligibility criteria and agreed to take part in the study were assigned, at random, either to a program group that received the special services as part of the demonstration program or to a control group that received the college’s standard services. The study tracked both groups over time to find out whether Opening Doors resulted in better educational and other outcomes for students.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Computer algorithm at MDRC
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
n/a
Sample size: planned number of observations
444 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
220 students control, 224 students treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Study has received IRB approval. Details not available.
IRB Approval Date
Details not available
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
444 students
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
444 students
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
220 students control, 224 students treatment
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
No
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
Abstract
Community colleges are often hailed as open-access institutions, and, arguably, no state has done more to ensure access than California. Unfortunately, community college completion rates are dismally low, in part because many students are underprepared for college-level work. In fact, tens of thousands of students in California are on probation, owing to poor grades or inadequate academic progress, or both, and face a high risk of not graduating. To date, little research has been done on how to help such students get back into good standing.

As part of MDRC’s multisite Opening Doors demonstration, Chaffey College, a large community college in Southern California, ran two versions of a program that was designed to improve outcomes among students who are on probation. Both versions offered a “College Success” course, taught by a college counselor, which provided basic information on study skills and the requirements of college. As part of the course, students were expected to visit the college’s “Success Centers” — which were established at Chaffey in response to the school’s recognition that many of its entering students were not prepared for college-level work, and where students could receive supplementary individualized or group instruction in math, reading, and writing. The original program, called “Opening Doors,” was a one-semester, voluntary program. The other version, called “Enhanced Opening Doors” in this report, was a two-semester program, in which students were told that they were required to take the College Success course.

MDRC collaborated with the college to evaluate Opening Doors and Enhanced Opening Doors. In 2005, students were randomly assigned either to a program group that was eligible for Opening Doors or to a control group that received standard college courses and services. Any subsequent substantial differences between the program and control groups’ academic outcomes can be attributed to Opening Doors. In 2006, a second group of students was randomly assigned to estimate the impacts of Enhanced Opening Doors. This report describes the findings for both programs, which include the following:
-- Chaffey’s original, voluntary Opening Doors program did not meaningfully affect students’ academic outcomes. Program group students were no more likely to get off probation than were control group students.
-- In contrast, the Enhanced Opening Doors program, with its message of required participation, improved students’ academic outcomes. It increased the average number of credits earned, the proportion of students who earned a grade point average of 2.0 or higher, and the proportion who moved off probation.
-- Analyses suggest that the greater success of Enhanced Opening Doors might have been driven by the higher rate of participation in the College Success course. Only about half the original Opening Doors program group took the College Success course, compared with approximately three-fourths of the Enhanced Opening Doors program group.

Following the study, Chaffey committed to institutionalizing a revised version of Enhanced Opening Doors to more fully implement and enforce the college’s probation and dismissal policies, and built upon its experiences in the Opening Doors demonstration to develop a voluntary program, called “Smart Start,” for new students who are at risk of experiencing difficulties.
Citation
Scrivener, Susan, Colleen Sommo, and Herbert Collado. 2009. Getting Back on Track: Effects of a Community College Program for Probationary Students. New York: MDRC.
Abstract
Community colleges across the United States face a difficult challenge. On the one hand, they are “open access” institutions, with a mission to serve students from all backgrounds and at varying levels of college readiness. On the other hand, they must uphold high academic standards in order to maintain accreditation and prepare students for employment or transfer to four-year schools. How, then, can community colleges best serve students who want to learn but do not meet minimum academic standards?

Chaffey College, a large community college located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, began to wrestle with this question early in the twenty-first century. Under the auspices of a national demonstration project called Opening Doors, Chaffey developed a program designed to increase probationary students’ chances of succeeding in college. Chaffey’s program included a “College Success” course, taught by a counselor, which provided basic information on study skills and the requirements of college. As part of the course, students were expected to complete five visits to “Success Centers,” where their assignments, linked to the College Success course, covered skills assessment, learning styles, time management, use of resources, and test preparation.

In 2005, MDRC collaborated with Chaffey College to evaluate the one-semester, voluntary Opening Doors program. In 2006, the program was improved to form the two-semester Enhanced Opening Doors program, in which probationary students were told that they were required to take the College Success course. In MDRC’s evaluation of each program, students were randomly assigned either to a program group that had the opportunity to participate in the program or to a control group that received the college’s standard courses and services. This report presents the outcomes for both groups of students in the Enhanced Opening Doors evaluation for four years after they entered the study. The findings include:
-- The message matters — optional program activities had lower participation rates compared with required program activities.
-- Chaffey’s Enhanced Opening Doors program had positive short-term effects. When the two program semesters were complete, students in the program group had earned more credits than students in the control group and were nearly twice as likely as control group students to be in good academic standing.
-- Despite the program’s encouraging short-term effects, it did not meaningfully improve students’ long-term academic outcomes. Four years after the study began, program and control group students had made similar academic progress. Strikingly, during that time, only 7 percent of all students in the study had earned a degree or certificate.

This report presents detailed findings from Chaffey’s Enhanced Opening Doors initiative, including the cost and cost-effectiveness of the program, and considers the implications of this research for designing services for probationary students in community college.
Citation
Weiss, Michael J., Thomas Brock, Colleen Sommo, Timothy Rudd, and Mary Clair Turner. 2011. Serving Community College Students on Probation: Four-Year Findings from Chaffey College’s Opening Doors Program. New York: MDRC.
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS