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Partnering to Map Trajectories Into Postsecondary Education and Careers: A Research-Practice Partnership and State Policy Research Alliance in the Northwest

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


Theoretical Framework
Education Northwest works to build the capacity of educators and stakeholders to make effective use of data and rigorous research evidence to inform their decisions. Similar to other research-practice partnerships (Coburn, Penuel & Geil, 2013), the RPP 3 approach has four central tenets: 1) ensuring mutualism (i.e., co-construction of work), (2) addressing real-world and relevant problems, (3) building the capacity of individuals and organizations, and (4) widening the circle of beneficiaries within and across the region and nationally.

In this paper, we describe how our partnership with the [state policy research alliance in the Northwest] illustrates these four partnership tenets in practice (Author citation, 2016). Created in 2012, this alliance brings together state-level education stakeholders and policymakers to use evidence to develop state policies. Attention to ensuring mutualism existed from the beginning, and has been cited by members as a reason for alliance success. One of the alliance’s first requests was for Education Northwest to conduct a study of the pathways of a local state’s high school students into postsecondary education and careers (Author citation, 2015). The study arose from a real-world problem—obtaining evidence that could inform policy and help students make decisions about their future educational and career paths.

Methods and Data Sources
Education Northwest worked closely with analysts from multiple state agencies and drew on both National Student Clearinghouse data and state-level data that followed 40,000 students for up to seven years after exiting high school. Due to state statute limitations on sharing labor data, Education Northwest staff partnered with alliance members to build their data capacity by coaching Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) analysts on conducting sophisticated data analyses, such as complex regressions on wage data, and on making meaning of those data.

Results and Significance
In the process of bringing together the datasets, Education Northwest facilitated meetings among the agencies’ analysts to ensure common definitions and nomenclature. The alliance steering committee members reviewed the study findings and provided several rounds of feedback. Lead project partners, such as DOLWD analysts, fact checked the report and co-presented findings to alliance members. One alliance member said that the results provided useful insights into how young people move between education and employment after high school, and that the data may challenge assumptions: “A lot of people think that college is the key to everything, and while they eventually earn more, there are people who don’t go to college who earn just as much.”

Alliance members and others in the local state cite the study as a promising example of how the alliance and RPP 3 produce evidence that is highly relevant to policy and practice. To share the results more broadly and widen the circle of beneficiaries, we also presented the work at multiple conferences and created an infographic and animated video as supplemental products to highlight key findings and implications.


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