Working to My Potential: The Postsecondary Experiences of CPS Students in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

March, 2012
Vanessa Coca, David W. Johnson, Thomas Kelley-Kemple, Melissa Roderick, Eliza Moeller, Nicole Williams, and Kafi Moragne
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This report rigorously examines the impact of participation in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP) on the postsecondary outcomes of students who graduated from Chicago’s neighborhood high schools from 2003 through 2007. IB DPs were established across Chicago beginning in 1997, when CPS announced an ambitious plan to expand its flagship IB DP program at Lincoln Park High School to neighborhood high schools. At the time, the scale of this expansion was unmatched by any other school district in the United States.

This study draws on quantitative data to estimate effects on college enrollment and persistence using a propensity matching technique; it also uses student interview data from CCSR’s longitudinal qualitative study to investigate students’ experiences in college. The report looks at the effect of the IB DP program in 12 neighborhood high schools. It did not study the IB program at Lincoln Park High School because it is highly selective and serves a different population than the IB DPs at other neighborhood high schools.

The study found that, when compared to a matched comparison group, students in the IB DP are 40 percent more likely to attend four-year colleges and 50 percent more likely to attend more selective colleges. In addition, these students are significantly more likely to persist in four-year colleges for two years. When in college, IB DP students report feeling prepared to succeed and indeed excel in their coursework, often stating explicitly that their experiences in the IB DP taught the specific skills and behaviors demanded of them in college. Despite strong academic qualifications, IB DP students often have limited access to the social capital necessary to successfully navigate college course selection and access the support of college faculty. The study also found that only 62 percent of students who enter the IB DP Cohort in ninth grade subsequently enroll in the program in eleventh grade. There are no effects of IB DP participation for the 38 percent of students who do not complete the program.

This report is part of the Chicago Postsecondary Transition project and is a follow-up to two reports in the From High School to the Future series, Potholes on the Road to College and Making the Hard Work Pay Off.

This research was supported through a grant by the International Baccalaureate Organization. This study builds off of research conducted by the Chicago Postsecondary Transition Project, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and uses qualitative data collected under grants from the Spencer Foundation and William T. Grant Foundation.

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