Post Michal Kurlaender

Dr. Michal Kurlaender Awarded $5 Million Grant
Study will show how well California prepares K-12 students for college, careers

University of California, Davis, researchers in education and economics have been awarded nearly $5 million to find out how well the state prepares K-12 students for college and careers.

The three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences will fund a research team led by Michal Kurlaender, an associate professor in the School of Education. Collaborators on the project include Paco Martorell, an assistant professor in the School of Education, and Scott Carrell, an associate professor of economics, as well as a team of researchers in the California Department of Education led by Jonathan Isler. The project is a joint venture of the School of Education and the Center for Poverty Research, with which the faculty researchers are affiliated.

“Too many students enter college unprepared for college level work, likely the result of both insufficient preparation and lack of adequate information about the expectations of college,” Kurlaender said. “Our goal is to better understand how efforts to improve both high school rigor and information about college and career readiness can impact schools and the students they serve.”

“California is a solid Common Core state and the changes in our teaching and learning are sweeping,” said Harold Levine, dean of the UC Davis School of Education. “It’s critical that our teachers, school leaders and elected officials understand how these changes are impacting students’ college readiness. The research that Professor Kurlaender and her colleagues will conduct under this new IES grant will provide the ‘deep dive’ that is required to sort through these issues.”

To begin, the team will take a close look at how the state’s new “Smarter Balanced” assessments under Common Core identify students as college and career ready, and investigate differences among schools in producing college- and career-ready students. Secondly, they will examine how early signals of college readiness affect students’ high school coursework and their subsequent college outcomes.

California has been at the forefront of considering how implementation of Common Core standards can help align K-12 and higher education. National efforts to increase the number of students who earn college degrees have focused on improving this alignment. However, “California policymakers and practitioners don’t yet have a sense of how different aspects of these reforms may affect student outcomes,” said Kurlaender.

The project’s design to assess how college readiness signals affect student outcomes closely mimics a randomized controlled trial, which is as close as possible to the gold standard of research to evaluate public policies.

The proposed research partnership between UC Davis and the CDE builds on an existing informal relationship between researchers in the two organizations. “The CDE was eager to partner with UC Davis researchers to better understand the effects of our new state standards and assessments,” said Keric Ashley, deputy superintendent for the District, School and Innovation Branch of the California Department of Education. “This project will help inform our work supporting teachers and students in improving college and career readiness.”

Media contact(s):

Lupe Sanchez, Center for Poverty Research, (530) 752-4024, gsanchez@ucdavis.edu
Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-6101, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu

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