While the educational attainment gap between Appalachian Ohio and the rest of the state and nation has begun to narrow, the region is still not producing, retaining, or attracting sufficient numbers of college graduates. As a result, the region has made relatively few inroads in terms of narrowing the education/skills gap and hence garnering the ability to compete successfully in the global economy. The region's college going, college retention, and college completion rates remain lower than any other region of the state. This case study is an in- depth examination of the processes and initial outcomes of the "Collaborating on Economic Success in Appalachia" project--one of the 14 regional high school-higher education alignment consortia awarded funding by the Ohio Department of Education. The primary research questions address whether or not the collaborative is successful in addressing the five targeted areas of need: 1) increasing academic engagement of high school students, 2) improving math, reading, and science skills of high school students, 3) increasing social competencies and empowering students and their families, 4) decreasing non-academic barriers impacting student success, and 5) increasing college completion rates. Because the COESA is a single case among 14 funded high school-higher ed alignment consortia, albeit comprised of 20 individual subunits of implementation (the 20 participating high schools), a single-case design with multiple, embedded units of analysis will be deployed. By using an embedded single-case design, the subunits provide a more complex and extensive analysis of implementation and initial outcomes (Yin, 1994). Some data collection will be at the subunit level. Additionally, five participating districts will be selected as exemplar districts for more in-depth analysis that will enable rich, vivid description of implementation and initial outcomes. The study will address the challenges the project faced and provide baseline and initial implementation year metrics related to high school course selection, high school teacher credentialing for dual enrollment, and the need for remedial coursework in college.
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