During Year One of the project, we are taking careful steps to ensure reliability and validity of the data in order to set the stage for sustainability of project interventions, as well as for scaling those interventions. We mention here some of the steps taken. Together with the structural equation model, this will allow us to determine the anticipated impact from an infusion of resources at specific points in the system both within South Carolina and elsewhere.


In order to ensure equivalence of existing quantitative data, we have used variables and formats required by state reporting guidelines where possible, and existing course articulation agreements for alignment of math placement information. Qualitative data from focus groups have been collected by the same two researchers in each setting, with a core set of consistent prompts.


We have recorded each focus group session with two independent audio recording devices, then had the audio files transcribed verbatim through a secure third-party service. Each audio file was verified against the recordings prior to analysis. Written artifacts generated in the focus group were labeled and photographed before analysis.


Each member of the qualitative analysis team submitted written responses and reflections to bracketing prompts to identify and mitigate researcher bias prior to analysis. Researchers are maintaining memos and log trails during the analysis process to identify any passages eliciting a strong emotional reaction that might indicate researcher bias.


Each focus group transcript was coded independently by at least three members of the qualitative research team, then initial codes were compared and discrepancies discussed until the team reached consensus. Passages on which agreement could not be reached were marked for further review and potential member-checking.


Structural Equation Model

A state-wide survey to develop a structural equation model with relative weights of different factors affecting initial mathematics course placement and major selection.