Yearly Archives: 2011


December 9th Podcast – Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students: What Does it Cost?

David Stern, University of California, Berkeley

To improve the preparation of California high school students for postsecondary education and careers, in 2006 the James Irvine Foundation launched a major initiative to develop what is now called the Linked Learning approach. The Foundation asked PACE to inform this effort by gathering evidence on the cost of Linked Learning programs. This seminar presents the results.

The Linked Learning strategy is based on previous studies, mainly on evaluations of career academies. Prior research found that combining academic and career-technical coursework in a small-school setting, with work-based learning related to classroom instruction, can produce positive outcomes for students during and after high school. A new report on California Partnerships Academies (CPAs) in 2009-10 provides additional positive evidence. This seminar will discuss both benefits and costs. David Stern of the University of California, Berkeley, will present results from the new study of CPAs and from the PACE study of costs.

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State Standards, the SAT, and Admission to the University of California

A new PACE policy brief, by Michal Kurlaender, University of California Davis, Eric Grodsky, University of Minnesota, Samuel J. Agronow, Saint Mary’s College of California and Catherine L. Horn, University of Huston.

Like most other universities in the country, the University of California (UC) requires that students submit scores from either the SAT or ACT exams as part of their application package. These tests have their origins in the efforts of a handful of elite colleges and universities to expand the socioeconomic diversity and enhance the academic promise of their admissions pools; to reduce the number of tests students must take to apply to college and the burden this places on both prospective students and postsecondary institutions; and to provide a means of comparing students who attend different schools with potentially different grading standards. Despite the appeal of a nationally standardized college entrance exam, critics have asserted that standardized college entrance exams (and the SAT in particular) suffer from several important flaws. These critics argue that the SAT does a poor job of predicting success in college conditional on student high school grades, is biased against women and under-represented minorities, is coachable and thus advantages more affluent families who can afford to pay for test instruction, imposes an additional hurdle on first-generation college students unfamiliar with the steps they must take to gain admission to a competitive college, and is disconnected from the content and performance standards for state K-12 educational systems.

In an increasingly K-16 policy environment, it is important to consider whether and how tests used to monitor the progress of students through secondary education might serve as a substitute for college entrance exams in the college admissions process. This analysis provides important evidence for reconsidering the decision to privilege college entrance exams over state mandated standardized exams for purposes of college admissions at public universities. The analysis in this brief reveals that the CST exam (required for all California high school students in the 11th grade) offers remarkably similar levels of predictive power in determining college performance, and persistence at UC, to that of the SAT.

State Standards, the SAT, and Admission to the University of California

Student Support Services: Their Possibilities and Limits

In the fourth of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Community colleges provide a substantial array of student support services, designed to help students master basic subjects and to learn “how to be college students.” However, the use of these services by instructors and students varies substantially. Some instructors rarely or never mention the availability of such services; others make the use of some services mandatory. But the largely voluntary nature of student services means that many students do not use these services, for reasons ranging from competing demands for their time to avoidance of stigma or stereotype threat. The result is general consensus that the students who most need support services fail to get them — except where colleges have moved to portray such services as  “what all good students do.”

Student services suffer from certain structural problems. One is related to funding, since students services (unlike conventional instruction) do not generate additional revenues for colleges. The large number of adjunct faculty members, especially in developmental education, also complicates contact between instruction and student services. The nature of most colleges as laissez-faire institutions, reluctant to place requirements on either students or instructors, contributes to the voluntary use of student services. Various ways of reshaping student services therefore require challenging conventional practices and norms of community colleges, but the results have the promise of making the entire enterprise of developmental education more effective.

Student Support Services: Their Possibilities and Limits

November 18th Podcast – Strengthening Assessment and Accountability for English Learner Success: Challenges and Choices Facing California

Robert Linquanti, WestEd

Educational assessment policy must produce measures of performance that are fair and accurate for all students in order to convey clear and helpful information to educators, parents, and the students themselves. Achieving these objectives is especially challenging when it comes to the nation’s 5 million K-12 public school English learners (ELs). English learners are linguistic-minority students not sufficiently proficient in English to be able to benefit adequately from regular classroom instruction and demonstrate their knowledge and abilities using English. In California more than half of the children now entering public schools come from households where the first language is not English, and nearly 1.5 million are currently English Learners.

In this seminar Robert Linquanti discusses how next-generation state assessment and accountability systems can be made more responsive to the needs and strengths of ELs. Linquanti argues that innovation must be grounded in a clear understanding of the EL population, as well as of English language proficiency and its relationship to academic subject matter learning and assessment. He explains how the common core standards “push the envelope” for ELs and educators, and argues that comprehensive assessment systems can and must strengthen teacher pedagogical practice with ELs. Finally, he suggests ways in which California educational leaders and policymakers can exert national leadership on these issues.

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Innovation in Developmental Education: The Landscape and the Locus of Change

In the third of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Community colleges are full of innovation in developmental education, and some of these have the promise of changing the “remedial pedagogy” that can be so ineffective. In this working paper the authors review six kinds of innovations: (1) the efforts of individual practitioners, which can be found in many colleges but which reach very few students; (2) the developments in limited numbers of departments that have come together, under particular conditions, to create their own alternative pedagogies; (3) learning communities and linked courses, unfortunately less common than the authors had hoped; (5) reforms following K-12 initiatives, specifically Reading Apprenticeship and the writing process methods of the National Writing Project; (6) the formation of Faculty Interest Groups to stimulate faculty discussions that might in turn lead to reforms.

There is, then, no dearth of good ideas about how to improve developmental education, though the scale and thoroughness of these innovations vary enormously. The conditions that nurture innovations are also critical to their success, and we uncovered one pattern — innovation from the middle, with the joint efforts of senior-level faculty and middle-level administrators — that seems necessary for widespread reform.

Innovation in Developmental Education: The Landscape and the Locus of Change

October 7th Podcast: The Case for Increasing the Priority of Community College Career Technical Education Programs

Nancy Shulock, Executive Director; Colleen Moore, Researcher; Jeremy Offenstein, Researcher; Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy (IHELP), Sacramento State.

The career technical education (CTE) mission of the California Community Colleges is a vital part of the agenda to increase college completion and shore up economic competitiveness; yet this area of college academic programming gets too little emphasis and support. There is growing evidence of high market value of certificate and associate degree programs in select areas. There is also evidence that career-oriented programs can increase student motivation and improve outcomes, helping to meet workforce, equity, and productivity goals for California postsecondary education. Yet the attention given to CTE has not matched that given to the junior college transfer mission or to developmental education.

This session reviewed the evidence produced to date in a multi-year research agenda on community college CTE. IHELP researchers documented the high student interest in CTE along with the very low numbers of certificates and associate degrees awarded. They summarized the results of a system-wide inventory of CTE programs, by college, that suggests the need for far more attention to developing coherent program structures that deliver value to students and employers. They also discussed some of the challenges facing the colleges presented by the organizational structure around the CTE and workforce development mission and drew some contrasts with other states that have assigned a higher priority to the CTE mission.

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December 9th Seminar: Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students. What Does it Cost?

December 9
David Stern, University of California, Berkeley
Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students: What Does it Cost?

To improve the preparation of California high school students for postsecondary education and careers, in 2006 the James Irvine Foundation launched a major initiative to develop what is now called the Linked Learning approach. The Foundation asked PACE to inform this effort by gathering evidence on the cost of Linked Learning programs. This seminar presents the results.

The Linked Learning strategy is based on previous studies, mainly on evaluations of career academies. Prior research found that combining academic and career-technical coursework in a small-school setting, with work-based learning related to classroom instruction, can produce positive outcomes for students during and after high school. The focus of this seminar is on costs, not on outcomes. David Stern of the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss how the study’s authors attempted to measure the actual resources that go into the programs, rather than relying on administrative budgets; focused on incremental rather than total costs; and distinguished between start-up and ongoing costs.

How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility: Charter, Magnet, and Newly Built Campuses in Los Angeles

In a new PACE Working Paper, Luke Dauter and Bruce Fuller, University of California, Berkeley, explore “How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility: Charter, Magnet, and Newly Built Campuses in Los Angeles.” Achievement often suffers when families or students change schools. Yet pupil mobility is now encouraged in urban districts like Los Angeles, as mixed-markets of charter, magnet, and pilot schools sprout. Over 60 new facilities were opened as well during the 2002-2008 period, thanks to $27 billion in school construction mounted by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This paper reports on the likelihood that students exit their school mid-stream, before completing a grade cycle or graduating. The authors find that African American and White students were more likely to exit their school, compared with Latino, non-English speaking, and foreign-born students, yet students attending overcrowded schools – often situated in low-income Latino neighborhoods – exited at higher rates. Charter and magnet school students left their schools at much lower rates, compared with peers in regular schools, after taking into account family background. As LAUSD opened new high schools, pupil mobility slowed markedly. The authors also found that Latino students were more likely than Black or White peers to move to a newly built school, rather than entering a charter or magnet school, likely due to the district’s commitment to relieve overcrowding in L.A.’s most densely populated communities.

How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility: Charter, Magnet, and Newly Built Campuses in Los Angeles