Evaluation of Programming

One of the most important aspects of Student U’s collaboration with Durham Public Schools and the other nontraditional high schools students attend is Student U’s continued access to school data and teacher collaboration. The DPS Office of Research and Accountability provides academic data, including End-of-Course Scores (retrieved annually in the fall). In addition, schools provide academic grades, progress reports, and discipline information (retrieved yearly).

The Evaluations and Research Coordinator, Chief Program Officer, and Program Coordinators use school data to inform decisions about each student. Students, Advocates, and families communicate and meet regularly to collaboratively review and give updates on student progress.


The research concludes that “high-quality, intensive college-going interventions offer the potential to improve academic and non-academic skills.”

An external researcher from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy has completed an evaluation of Student U’s impact on the academic and non-academic outcomes of Student U students. Utilizing a control group created by Student U’s admissions lottery, the researcher concluded causal impact on short and medium term student outcomes, including:

  • Increase in probability that students are identified as academically/intellectually gifted in middle school
  • Decrease in likelihood of committing violent infractions in sixth grade
  • Accumulation of more overall course credits by tenth grade
  • More likely to be advanced or on-grade level in math by tenth grade
  • More likely to have enrolled in at least one course with an Honors designation
  • Research finds the greatest effects on male students

Types of Evaluations

Informal Assessments. Student U believes that all of our stakeholders serve as evaluators and highly values student, guardian, teacher, and employee feedback. Student U regularly collects evaluation information from parents and guardians through surveys and in-person meetings. Annually, Student U collects information from students through surveys to gain an understanding from their perspective. These assessments allow Student U to disaggregate data based on grade level and gender. This enables the organization to provide targeted programming to specific subsets of the population.

Formal Assessments. Student U administers and relies on formal assessments to form a complete understanding of outcomes of programming. In collaboration with a professor from NC State University, the Evaluations and Research Coordinator developed a personal well-being survey that measures students’ internal strengths in regards to leadership skills, self-efficacy, physical and emotional health, college-bound attitudes, and feelings of belonging and community. This survey allows Student U to have a deeper understanding of some of the strengths and challenges our students face outside of the academic realm and how they change over time.

Specific Evaluations. In order to ensure that students are receiving the appropriate academic interventions for their skill level, they participate in benchmark tests administered by Student U each summer. These tests allow specialists to track growth for low-performing students and assess the effectiveness of remediation and tutoring. The results of these evaluations are used to provide students with extra support from tutors or Student U’s Learning Specialist, if needed.

Quality of Programming.  Student U reviews all programs to ensure that all programming is high quality and meets the need of all stakeholders involved. All program staff take a survey after all training sessions, including pre-summer orientation and ongoing professional development. All Student U instructional staff will receive regular observations of program delivery. During the School-Year Program, the Program Coordinators will conduct these observations. During the Summer Academy, Mentor Teachers and Program Coordinators will observe all academic classes weekly. During all observations, the observer will complete an official Observation Form. Classroom observations along with data from student assessments will be used to evaluate programming and used as a guide for future program changes.

Data Use and Distribution. Student U shares data analysis with all stakeholders each February in Student U's Annual Report. This report is available to the public and the entire Durham community through the Student U website. Student U distributes evaluation reports at each of the quarterly Student U board meetings.


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