Characteristics and Postsecondary Pathways of Students Who Participate in Acceleration Programs in Minnesota

Cameron Smither
Jennifer Stephan

Acceleration programs are academically challenging courses in which high school students can simultaneously earn credit toward a high school diploma and a postsecondary degree. Despite the widespread use of acceleration programs, little information exists on the types of students and schools that access these programs and on participants’ postsecondary pathways, such as whether and where they enroll in college.

The study examined student participation rates and success in acceleration programs available to Minnesota high school students and compared college pathways and outcomes between participants and nonparticipants among the 2011 cohort of high school graduates. The results of this study might point to the contribution of these programs to student outcomes, but more rigorous research is needed to draw a causal inference about the impact of acceleration programs on these outcomes.

In addition, these results raise several considerations for educators and policymakers, including the potential importance of expanding opportunities for underrepresented students to enroll in acceleration programs and reexamining state procedures for collecting data in order to classify acceleration programs more comprehensively and document differences between types of programs.