College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

The District Role in Improving Students’ College Access and Success

By Urban Education Contributor — November 15, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This post is by Jesus Angulo, the director of counseling services at the Los Angeles Unified School District (@LASchools).

Today’s post is the practitioner perspective on Monday’s post: Learning About Los Angeles Students’ Pathways to College

Over the past several years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has focused on improving students’ college access and success. We are working to ensure that all students are eligible to attend a four-year college, that students and their families have the support they need to realize their educational goals, and that all school staff members are equipped to support students throughout the college-going process. We see college and career readiness as an all-inclusive venture—helping students enroll in and succeed in college is the responsibility of the entire school community, not just the counseling office.

Our recent work has moved L.A. Unified toward our goal of improving college access and engaging the entire school community in helping students to and through college. For example, we have more closely aligned our graduation requirements with California’s four-year college-admissions requirements, expanded the college-counseling services available at our schools, and developed new college-related professional-development opportunities for school staff. Our research partner, the Los Angeles Education Research Institute (LAERI), has supported our college- and career-readiness efforts by researching the college-readiness supports available in our high schools; our graduates’ college enrollment, persistence, and completion; and, most recently, whether and where our students apply to college.

Use of Research Findings in Practice

LAERI’s research, outlined in greater detail in Monday’s post, has been instrumental in helping us understand the postsecondary pathways of our graduates. Becoming familiar with our postsecondary data has informed our internal conversations and helped us think about our potential impact beyond K-12. At multiple levels in the district (e.g., district leaders and central-office staff), we are thinking about and working toward providing our high school students the support they need to enroll in college and earn a degree. LAERI’s research provides context for district discussions about students’ postsecondary success and a baseline from which we can evaluate our progress. For example, the new brief from LAERI provides the first districtwide snapshot of whether and where our students applied to college. Knowing what percentage of students applied to a four-year college, and which students were less likely to apply, helps us identify areas where we may need to target additional support. To take one example from the brief, LAERI found that students with higher GPAs were more likely to apply to four-year colleges. This finding, while not surprising, highlights the importance of helping students and families understand college eligibility and identifying students who may be struggling academically early in their high school careers.

Future Work

LAERI’s new brief series has raised broader questions in the central office about students’ academic qualifications for college and whether there are key moments in which students fall off-track for being college eligible, as well as how schools’ approaches to college counseling and support vary across school sites. For example, are students from some schools more likely to apply to and attend out-of-state colleges and what kind of college counseling do those students receive? A future LAERI brief will explore the relationship between schools’ counseling supports and students’ participation in the application process. We look forward to tackling questions that arise from this research with our research partners. Beyond addressing new research questions, we believe that actively engaging schools in discussions about this research is an important next step for our partnership.

Image: Pablo

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.