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’s work focuses on the causes and consequences of racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender inequalities through the education life course, and the impact of institutional policies and practices aimed at attenuating educational inequality. She 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.
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 Center for Poverty and Inequality at UC Davis, is an affiliated scholar with the Student Experience Research Network (formerly the Mindset Scholars Network), and a Strategic Advisor to The Education Trust-West.
Recent Reports & Commentaries:
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
Reed, Sherrie; Friedmann, Elizabeth; Kurlaender, Michal; Martorell, Paco; Rury, Derek; Fuller, Ryan; Moldoff, Jessica; and Perry, Patrick (2022) “Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 Disruptions for California College Students,” Journal of Student Financial Aid: Vol. 51 : Issue 1, Article 7.
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
Awards and Honors
- Higher Education Leadership Award, California Educational Research Association (2021)
- Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award, University of California, Davis (2021)
- Elected to the National Academy of Education (2020)
- UC Davis Faculty Leadership Academy (2019-20)
- 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
- Co-Director, Policy Analysis for California Education-PACE
- Lead Researcher, Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research, University of California, Davis
- Member, Mindset Scholars Network
- Executive Committee, UC Davis Center for Poverty Research
- Researcher, Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness, Teachers College, Columbia University
- Researcher, Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment, Teachers College, Columbia University
- UC Davis Site Director, The University of California Educational Evaluation Center
- Program Committee, Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness
- Small Grants Review Panel & Dissertation Fellowship, The Spencer Foundation
- Research Advisory Board, College Board Advocacy & Policy Center
- Program Committee, Economy, Justice & Society, Institute for Governmental Affairs, University of California-Davis
- California Dropout Research Project
- Education and Social Policy
- Research Design
- Economics of Education
- Quantitative Methods in Education Research
- Applied Data Analysis