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Using Research on College Outcomes and College Supports to Improve Practice: Lessons Learned from the LAERI Research-Practice Partnership

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


As a research-practice partnership, LAERI focuses on relevant problems of practice with the intent to use research for improvement (Coburn, Penuel & Geil, 2013; Honig and Coburn, 2008). LAERI, in partnership with LAUSD, has been investigating many aspects of students’ pathways to and through college. This paper will discuss findings from two related projects, one describing college outcomes and the other exploring college readiness supports available to students. It will also discuss strategies LAERI uses to facilitate the district’s use of findings. The college outcomes project examined college enrollment, persistence, and graduation among district graduates and how those college outcomes were related to students’ socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds and high school academic preparation. The college readiness supports project gathered interview and survey data about college-related supports in district schools to understand how college readiness supports varied across schools. Our goal in considering college outcomes within the context of current K-12 practices was to provide information about potential areas for improvement and promising practices that might be scalable.

Theoretical Framework
Socioeconomically disadvantaged students are less likely to enroll in college or complete a degree than their more advantaged peers (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011). These same students have less access to college-educated adults outside of school to assist them with the college application process (Plank & Jordan, 2001). The research literature suggests that school and externally-provided interventions can promote college enrollment, particularly for disadvantaged students (see Page & Scott-Clayton, 2016).

Methods & Data Sources
We used longitudinal student-level district data, matched with data from the National Student Clearinghouse, to describe variation in college enrollment, persistence, and degree completion among district graduates; interviews with district and charter leaders and school staff to understand current approaches to college readiness; and data from surveys of local school counselors and local college access organizations to examine the prevalence of college supports and barriers to supporting students. LAERI consulted frequently with district staff and other stakeholders to develop strategies for data collection, analytic plans, and presentation of findings.

Preliminary results from the college outcomes study show that district graduates are far more likely to enroll in college than to graduate from college, consistent with national patterns. The results also show strong associations between high school academic preparation and college outcomes. Results from the college supports project suggest that while most schools offer a range of college access services, counselors’ limited time, large caseloads, and need for additional training pose challenges to serving all students well.

This paper presents results from two inter-related projects focused on an issue of primary importance to the district (graduating students prepared for success in college) and describes partnership practices for sharing actionable and relevant findings, with the intention of maximizing use for improvement. This paper also discusses challenges in gathering accurate data about college readiness supports in high schools, which may inform other partnership efforts to collect and use such data.


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