College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

College Readiness in Los Angeles: Research-Driven Change, Part 1

By Urban Education Contributor — July 06, 2017 3 min read
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This week we are hearing from the Los Angeles Education Research Institute (LAERI: @LAEdResearch). Today’s post is the practitioner perspective on Monday’s post: Supporting College Access and Success: Findings from Los Angeles.

This post is part 1 of an interview with Carol Alexander, Director of A-G (College Readiness) at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD: @LASchools‏), about the research conducted by the Los Angeles Education Research Institute (LAERI) research-practice partnership. Come back tomorrow for part 2!

The research and activities mentioned throughout this post were generously supported by the College Futures Foundation (@CollegeFutures) and the Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation.

LAERI: To what extent do you think the LAERI research on college going outcomes (and use of the National Student Clearinghouse data) has shifted internal conversations at the district beyond high school graduation, to focus on college readiness and success?

Carol Alexander (CA): One of the most significant impacts of our collaboration has been the collection and use of data about our students beyond high school graduation, allowing us to focus on post-secondary success as a key metric of our own success. In addition, the LAERI analyses showing that students’ performance on key college-readiness indicators is related to college enrollment, persistence, or completion, further helped us focus more attention on the indicators beyond standardized test scores (i.e., GPA, concurrent enrollment, Advanced Placement and college-prep courses and PSAT/SAT activity).

The research has also prompted many internal conversations, and I’m sure the release of the final reports will prompt additional discussions. For example, some of your college-going analyses showed that students, by and large, stay local when choosing a college. This prompted conversations about whether students and their families know about all of the options available to them, and choose to stay local anyway, or whether more communication is needed.

LAERI: In what ways, if at all, did findings from our college going outcomes study influence your plans going forward with your College Readiness grant?

CA: The college-going analyses influenced some of the strategies we outlined in our grant proposal. Previously, our collaboration with LAERI also influenced the district’s College and Career Readiness Plan, which preceded the grant. Your earlier analyses and our own internal analyses showed disparities in taking and passing college-preparatory coursework [known as “A-G” courses in California, which are required to be eligible for admission to state four-year universities]. We have focused on providing multiple pathways to successfully completing those A-G courses through the District College and Career Readiness Plan as well as through the College Readiness Block Grant.

Our conversations about students’ college enrollment patterns also included discussions about whether students are applying to the colleges for which they are eligible. This raised questions about the supports needed by various types of students, whether they be high-performers or struggling learners. In partnership with the LAERI team, we developed new questions for our School Experience Survey (taken by students and school-site employees) and a new Senior Exit Survey. This helped us to more accurately gauge where and to how many colleges students applied, as well as where they were accepted. Our goal is to better understand how students approach the college application process so we can better target our supports.

LAERI: Has this research or the discussions that have emerged from the partnership research influenced your thoughts about what sorts of data the district needs to collect routinely?

CA: In addition to focusing on post-secondary data as a metric of our success, our partnership has brought more attention to the information and data we need as students progress through the application process. We are now using Naviance to collect some of this information. We are also incorporating responses from the Senior Exit Survey and have worked closely with the LAERI research team to add questions to our School Experience Survey about college readiness and applications. We have found that researcher input on how to formulate survey questions in order to get at particular types of information is extremely valuable.

We also learned that the external partners who work with our schools on college-readiness activities do not have a mechanism for relaying information about the types of students being served. This impacts our ability to know which of the interventions and supports provided by these partners are most effective. This is something we know we need to work on as we move forward with this work.

The opinions expressed in Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.