Faculty Profile EMPHASIS AREA: SOEP. Education policy; Educational program evaluation; Educational stratification and equity; K-12 school desegregation

Michal Kurlaender

Professor and Department Chair

Michal Kurlaender portrait

Michal Kurlaender investigates students’ educational pathways, in particular K-12 and postsecondary alignment, and access to and success in higher education. She has expertise on alternative pathways to college and college readiness at both community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. In addition to working with national data, Kurlaender works closely with administrative data from all three of California’s public higher education sectors—the University of California, the California State University and the California Community College systems.

Kurlaender also studies the impact of racial and ethnic diversity on student outcomes, including mandatory and voluntary K-12 school desegregation efforts,  persistent inequalities in segregated schools, and diversity in postsecondary settings. 

In 2017-18 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation and in 2020 Professor Kurlaender was elected into the National Academy of Education.

Email: mkurlaender@ucdavis.edu

Kurlaender is a faculty co-director of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), the California Education Lab, and lead researcher of Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research. She serves on the executive committee of the sp at UC Davis. Kurlaender is a member of  the Mindset Scholars Network. She is also an affiliated researcher with the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness and the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment, both at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Recent Reports & Commentaries:

COVID-19 Student Survey, California Student Aid Commission

A Leg Up on College: The Scale and Distribution of Community College Participation Among California High School Students

Here’s a way to help cut California’s college costs and help students succeed

UC Regents Should Consider All Evidence and Options in Decision on Admissions Policy

Does Career Technical Education Pay? ​

Strengthening the Road to College: California’s College Readiness Standards and Lessons from District Leaders

High Expectations Demand High Support: Strengthening College Readiness at the California State Universities

Lack of Effective State Education Data System Holds Students Back: Longitudinal System that Connects K-12 and Higher Ed could help more Students Complete College

Research Interests

Education policy; program evaluation; educational stratification and inequality; access and success in postsecondary schooling; K-12 school desegregation; economics of education; quantitative methods; sociology of education


  • Ed.D. (2005) Harvard University Graduate School of Education
  • Ed.M. (1997) Harvard University Graduate School of Education
  • B.A. (1995) University of California, Santa Cruz

Select Publications

  • Carrell, S. and Kurlaender, M. (2020). My Professor Cares: Experimental Evidence on the Role of FacultyEngagement. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 27312.

  • Kurlaender, M., Lusher, L., & Case, M. (2020). Is Early Start A Better Start? Evaluating California State University’s Early Start Remediation Policy. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 39(2): 348-375. (Working Paper Available through IZA Institute of Labor Economics)

  • Stevens, A., Kurlaender, M., & Grosz, M. (2018). Career Technical Education and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from California Community Colleges. Working Paper 21137, National Bureau of Economic Research. Forthcoming. Journal of Human Resources, 54 (4).

  • Kurlaender, M., Carrell, S., & Jackson, J. (2016). The Promises and Pitfalls of Measuring Community College Quality. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2 (1): 174-190.

  • Friedmann, E., Kurlaender, M., & VanOmmeren, A. (2016). Addressing College Readiness Gaps at the College Door: Institutional Differences in Developmental, Education at California’s Community Colleges. New Directions for Community Colleges.

  • Jackson, J. & Kurlaender, M. (2016). K–12 Postsecondary Alignment and School Accountability: Investigating High School Responses to California’s Early Assessment Program. American Journal of Education, 122:477-503.

  • Kurlaender, M., Jackson, J., Howell, J. and Grodsky, E. (2014) College Course Scarcity and Time to Degree. Economics of Education Review, 41: 24-39.
  • Jackson, J.  & Kurlaender, M. (2014) College Readiness and College Completion at Broad Access Four-Year Institutions. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(8): 947-971.

  • Kurlaender, M. (2014) Assessing the Promise of California’s Early Assessment Program for Community Colleges, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 655:36-55.

  • Kurlaender, M. & Larsen, M. (2013). “K-12 and Postsecondary Alignment: Racial/Ethnic Differences in Freshmen Course-taking and Performance at California’s Community Colleges.” Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21 (16): 1-24.

  • Kurlaender, M. and Grodsky, E. (2013). “Mismatch and the Paternalistic Justification for Selective College Admissions.” Sociology of Education, 86(4): 294-310.

  • Grodsky, E. and Kurlaender, M. (Eds.). Equal Opportunity in Higher Education: The Past and Future of California’s Proposition 209. Harvard Education Press, 2010.

  • Long, B. T. and Kurlaender, M. (2009). Do Community Colleges Provide a Viable Pathway to a Baccalaureate Degree? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31 (1):30-53.

Other Reports, Presentations & Media

Predicting College Success: How Do Different High School Assessments Measure Up?

Testimony to the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, California Legislature​

Toward the Development of Equity Indicators for California, Policy Analysis for California Education Webinar

New Research on Statewide College Outcomes and District Approaches for Improvement, Policy Analysis for California Education Webinar

Could SAT, ACT not be required?

Awards and Honors

  • Named one of UC Davis’s Remarkable Women in celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the admission of women to the University of California
  • National Academy of Education, Elected Member (2020)
  • Visiting Scholar, Russell Sage Foundation (2017-2018)
  • Chancellor’s Fellow, University of California, Davis (2013-2018)
  • National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (2009-2010)
  • Education Week’s RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings (2015, 2016, 2017)
  • National Academy of Education, Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2009-10
  • University of California Davis,  Faculty Development Award, 2008
  • Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, 2004-2005
  • American Educational Research Association Dissertation Fellowship, 2003-2004
  • Roy Larsen Research Fellowship, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, 1999-2001

Professional Activities and Service


  • Education and Social Policy
  • Research Design
  • Economics of Education
  • Quantitative Methods in Education Research
  • Applied Data Analysis

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