The Bridge Project examined K-16 transition policies (high school exit-level policies and two-year and four-year college entrance and placement policies) and stakeholder (K-12 and postsecondary education) understandings of, and actions relating to, those policies. For example, we investigated what students, their parents, counselors, and teachers knew about college admission and placement policies; how they gained that knowledge; how the students were preparing for life after college; and what the students aspired to do after high school. The research was conducted in six states: California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Texas. For more information about the Bridge Project, including project findings and reports, please see

This policy toolkit is the result of seven years of policy research conducted by Bridge Project researchers in Stanford’s Institute for Higher Education Research. One of the major goals of the Bridge Project is to help states and regions develop more aligned and equitable policy structures that help all students prepare for, and succeed in, some form of postsecondary education. We hope this toolkit will help states and regions with their reform efforts.








What is a policy toolkit?

This is a do-it-yourself template for state-, regional- and institutional-level researchers and policymakers to analyze K-16 policies and stakeholder understandings. Organizations have used some of the Bridge Projects methodology and research questions to help their work, including GEAR UP in Texas and the American Diploma Project. A goal of this toolkit is to help a broad array of organizations conduct similar research.
This toolkit includes all of the instruments the Bridge Project used to conduct its research: student surveys, parent surveys, student focus group questions (K-12 and first-year college students), K-12 educator interview questions, postsecondary education staff and faculty questions, and the methodology RAND used to conduct assessment analyses for the Project. Conducting this research required a great deal of person power; survey data need to be entered, cleaned, and analyzed, and interview data must be coded and analyzed. Many organizations might not have the resources to replicate this research. People who want to replicate this research do not need to utilize every instrument or every question. Rather, people can pick and choose the questions or instruments that are relevant for their needs and their own state, regional, and institutional contexts.

When using these instruments, please be aware of the ramifications of the decisions you make along the way. For example, if you select high schools that serve students in the suburbs, your findings might not generalize to urban or rural schools. If you select public universities to include in the study, your findings might not be relevant for community colleges. Some of the questions we asked participants can be difficult to interpret. For example, we asked students to estimate the cost of tuition and fees at certain postsecondary institutions. It is impossible to know if students really understood that we wanted them to estimate only tuition and fees, or if they were including room and board. Also, financial costs are relative; one student might think that $5,000 per year is inexpensive, while another might believe it to be prohibitively expensive. Thus, interpreting the data can be difficult. Finally, the instruments we are providing will not help you learn if the implementation of a particular policy or program caused a certain response, but they can help you understand relationships.

Who should use this toolkit?

This toolkit is geared toward state-level policymakers and researchers who want to develop a greater understanding of 1) the connections, and disjunctures, between their secondary and postsecondary institutions and 2) constituency groups’ understandings of state policies. This will help states engage in a policy audit – it will help states catalogue and analyze their K-16 policies, and it will help them understand how the standards and expectations at the high school exit level relate to those at the college entry level (at public two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions). In addition, states will be able to explore how their policy signals are being transmitted to, understood by, and acted upon by, the populations that are affected by the policies (namely, educators, students, and their parents). This can inform responsible policymaking by outlining policy disjunctures between public education systems and illustrating stakeholder needs.