This NSF Grantee Poster explores the selection process for Rice University’s Emerging Scholar Program (RESP). Developed in June 2012, RESP is a comprehensive summer bridge and term-time advising program aimed at increasing STEM retention, graduation, and achievement in promising students who attended under-resourced high schools. RESP is not a remedial program, nor even an ‘early college course’ program. Rather, RESP aims to target deficits in K-12 preparation that may create undue obstructions for the program’s participants (named Scholars in the program and this paper) compared to their peers. The objective of the non-credit summer bridge portion of the program is to prepare Scholars for the pace, rigor, and depth of the STEM curriculum at Rice University. This is achieved through exposure to the most challenging portions of freshman calculus, chemistry, and physics with special focus on complex word problems. During subsequent years, Scholars receive intensive and intrusive term-time advising from staff devoted to the program.
RESP Scholars are admitted to Rice through the regular admissions process. After accepting a spot in the entering class, these students are invited to attend the bridge program in the summer before their freshman year. Scholar admittance occurs independent of consideration for, or participation in, RESP. Scholars are selected through partnerships with Rice’s Office of Admissions and other groups on campus. RESP partners with the Office of Admissions to review student admission information including SAT/ACT test scores, SAT subject test scores, first-generation status, academic ambitions and high school competitiveness ranking.
A separate principal selection mechanism for RESP is a novel diagnostic exam created in conjunction with the Schools of Natural Sciences and Engineering. The 11-question exam covers conceptual knowledge and tests skills in mathematics, chemistry, and physics with quantitative word problems that students are expected to know prior to arrival at Rice University. By focusing on applied problems and conceptual knowledge, the exam demonstrates a student’s academic preparation, not their intellectual ability.
The current study examines the validity of the RESP diagnostic exam and its predictive validity relative to standardized tests with a sample of students (N = 976) who matriculated into Rice University from 2012 to 2014. The RESP diagnostic exam was related to grades, and we found that the correlation between the RESP diagnostic exam and grades was greater for STEM grades than non-STEM grades. We found that the diagnostic exam accounted for an incremental 9% of variance in STEM grades above SAT performance, but only 1% of incremental variance above SAT in non-STEM grades. Moreover, we found evidence of range restriction for both SAT and RESP diagnostic exam performance for Rice University matriculants, further suggesting the utility of the diagnostic exam is at the lower end of the distribution. In summary, our results suggest that an additional diagnostic exam written by schools to specifically measure STEM preparation for their program can be a useful addition to procedures for selecting students for special experiences such as summer bridge programs.
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