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College and Career Readiness: Research-Practice Partnerships and the Challenge of District Research Use

Mon, May 1, 8:15 to 9:45am, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, River Level, Room 7B


Baltimore Education Research Consortium is leading a participatory model for research in an East Coast city to generate deep knowledge about college and career pathways among the city’s youth. This research is a pilot effort, the first use of the state’s longitudinal data system by an external partner. Research questions include: what are the post-secondary educational and employment trajectories of cohorts of high school students? What student attributes, academic profiles, or behaviors predict college enrollment, degree completion, or job certification? What set of factors predict immediate entry into the workforce, and what are the characteristics of employment (i.e., full time versus part time, co-enrollment in college and workforce, quality of employment and earnings)? Our findings can guide district and school leaders, the local funding community, and other youth advocates in constructing supports to improve outcomes for the city’s youth. This paper also considers the utility of these data within a participatory research model, policy regimes, and district time and capacity constraints.

Theoretical Framework
Baltimore Education Research Consortium has led the way in providing detailed analyses of college-going pathways among the city’s graduates (Author citation, 2013, 2014, 2015). Yet much remains unknown about how youth fare after high school, since to date there have been virtually no systematic investigations of students’ career-specific goals, high school preparation (e.g., Career-Technical Certificate completion), employment, and earnings. Although such factors are implicitly coupled with postsecondary enrollment, in this district such outcomes are discussed as mutually exclusive alternatives. This research is an attempt to re-couple employment and postsecondary education, engender a holistic view of youth well-being, and inform the creation of deliberate, integrated structures of opportunity for all youth. Further, to make research useful to practitioners, the researcher must account for leadership and district capacity, political hierarchies, and incentive structures for acting on the implications of data (Coburn, Honig & Stein, 2009; Coburn & Turner, 2011).

Methods & Data Sources
Using a state longitudinal data system warehouse, our study analyzes data on seven recent cohorts of graduates. Data include student-level high school factors (i.e., attendance, GPA, SAT/ACT, college-preparatory and/or CTE program participation), college enrollment patterns, and student-level employment outcomes (i.e., earnings, timing of work, working in fields concordant with certification programs, etc.). To contextualize stakeholder use of the research, we describe the participatory model used, patterns of participation, and district-level policy and incentive structures and resulting incorporation of research into planning.

The results suggest that consistently over cohorts, approximately one-fourth of the city’s graduates are neither enrolled in college nor earning wages during the six months after graduation. This new detailed analyses will provide evidence regarding the association between 9th grade attendance and college or employment access, as well as earnings trajectories.

The research presents an opportunity to understand further how, and under what circumstances, district-level practitioners are able to participate in the research process with the intention of incorporating research findings into their decision-making. The study also demonstrates the potential utility of state longitudinal data systems to provide actionable information to local education stakeholders.


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