Razor C.O.A.C.H. Guides Students Toward College, Career Training

The members of this year’s Razor C.O.A.C.H. team, from left, front row, Kandace Cross, Erika Perez, Heather Spickard, Josh Raney; second row, Carolyn Kelch, Ashley Streber, Taylor Scott, Jena Anderson, Kiersten Prochnow; third row, Lauren Jones, Megan Little, Kristin Higgins, Kylie Roblyer; back row, Jason Blankenship, Bethany Mitchell, Dan Kissinger, Kaitlyn Moritz, Whitney Farrar
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The members of this year’s Razor C.O.A.C.H. team, from left, front row, Kandace Cross, Erika Perez, Heather Spickard, Josh Raney; second row, Carolyn Kelch, Ashley Streber, Taylor Scott, Jena Anderson, Kiersten Prochnow; third row, Lauren Jones, Megan Little, Kristin Higgins, Kylie Roblyer; back row, Jason Blankenship, Bethany Mitchell, Dan Kissinger, Kaitlyn Moritz, Whitney Farrar

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A program based at the University of Arkansas proved successful in getting high school students to plan for college or career-training programs, according to a preliminary evaluation of the first year.

The College of Education and Health Professions hired 15 graduate students in counselor education to work in the Razor C.O.A.C.H. program last year. Razor C.O.A.C.H. stands for “Creating Opportunities for Arkansans’ Career Hopes.” The coaches guided high school students and their families to help them determine the students’ best opportunities after high school graduation.

The evaluation found that students who received the coaching took college-entrance exams at a higher rate than students who did not receive the coaching. Seniors in the Razor C.O.A.C.H. program took the ACT at a 22.7 percent higher rate than seniors not in the program.

Students who received the career counseling saw a significant increase in their accountability measure, according to a survey they filled out. They were more likely by their own estimation to have an adult in their life who cares about them, talks to them about social problems and checks on their grades at school. The survey found 13.9 percent more students in the Razor C.O.A.C.H. program gave favorable answers to these questions than students not in the program.

The researchers are also gathering data on grade-point averages, absenteeism, ACT scores, college application rates, graduation rates and application rates for financial aid.

The coaches worked with 362 students in 16 Northwest Arkansas high schools last year. This year, the program is expected to serve students from the first year who have not yet graduated from the schools, plus another 300 to 350 students. Applications were sent home this week with students.

A three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation awarded in 2011 supports the program, which is organized and funded through a partnership between the Walton Family Foundation, the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions, the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Educational Excellence Work Group and the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.

Josh Raney, director of the Razor C.O.A.C.H. program, said that data will be collected from all three years of the program to see whether students who received the coaching improved on various measures such as grade-point average compared to students who did not receive the coaching. Preliminary data from the first year showed a very small increase by both groups in their GPA, but the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant.

The evaluation showed 65 percent of the students who received coaching applied for post-secondary financial aid compared to 59 percent of the students who did not receive coaching. It showed that 74 percent of the students who received coaching applied for admission to a two-year or four-year college as compared to 76 percent of the students who did not receive coaching.

According to demographic data, participants in the first year were 143 seniors, 160 juniors and 59 sophomores. Fifty-two percent were white, 34 percent were Hispanic, 3 percent were African American and 11 percent were other ethnicities. Thirty percent came from homes where English is not the most common language spoken. The majority of the students’ parents, 65 percent, had earned a high school diploma or higher.

Some of the first group of University of Arkansas students working as coaches graduated and have been replaced. Eight new coaches were hired for a total of 15 again this year. The participating schools and their coaches:

  • Bentonville – Whitney Farrar and Kandace Cross
  • Decatur – Ashley Streber
  • Elkins – Megan Little
  • Fayetteville – Jason Blankenship
  • Gentry – Ashley Streber
  • Gravette – Kylie Roblyer
  • Greenland – Kylie Roblyer
  • Har-Ber High in Springdale – Carolyn Kelch and Kandace Cross
  • Heritage High in Rogers – Kiersten Prochnow
  • Lincoln – Bethany Mitchell
  • Pea Ridge – Lauren Jones
  • Prairie Grove – Kaitlyn Moritz
  • Rogers – Taylor Scott and Heather Spickard
  • Siloam Springs – Jena Anderson
  • Springdale – Erika Perez
  • West Fork – Megan Little

The career coaches also oversaw Reach Out NWA, an August event previously coordinated by the Northwest Arkansas Council. Teachers and administrators of high schools in Benton and Washington counties visited homes of students who were enrolled at their schools the previous year but did not return to class this fall.

Five of the career coaches presented information about the Razor C.O.A.C.H. program at the National Career Development Association’s Global Conference in Boston in July. The students were joined in the presentation by Raney and faculty members Kristin Higgins, an assistant professor of counselor education, and Dan Kissinger, an associate professor of counselor education. Higgins is principal investigator and Kissinger is co-investigator of the project. Gary Ritter, director of the Office for Education Policy in the College of Education and Health Professions, is leading the evaluation of the project.

Contacts

Josh Raney, program director, Razor C.O.A.C.H.
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-5429, jraney@uark.edu

Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu


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