Improving College and Career Readiness and Success

College and career readiness is at the heart of California’s State Standards. State policymakers have emphasized the need to better align K–12 education systems with higher education to ensure a more seamless transition for young adults between high school and college, and between high school and the labor market. This is critically important, as California’s education system is highly fragmented. K-12 schools, community colleges, and the two university systems (CSU and UC) operate under entirely separate governance structures, and rely on distinct sources of funding. As a result, these different "segments" of the education system generally operate independently of one another, developing policies and practices to serve their own students with little or no effort to consult with other segments. Intersegmental partnerships can provide the institutional framework for the multiple segments in California’s education system to work together to tackle these large problems. In this project, PACE researchers investigate where California’s students attend college and how they are doing and how local partnerships between and among segments can work to strengthen alignment in standards and expectations between K-12 and post-secondary education, with the goal of accelerating students’ progress through the system.

Learn more about how K-12 education works:

PACE Infographic - K-12 Standards
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  • Empowering the Intersegmental Agenda: Opportunities for Research, Policy, and Practice

    Sherrie Reed, Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Joel Vargas, Michal Kurlaender Policy Analysis for California Education June 2019

    Due to fragmented and misaligned segments of public education, many students lack access to educational opportunities that will ensure their success in college and career. This problem is one that may only be solved through better alignment and coordination between high school and college, between systems of higher education, and between education and economic development sectors.

  • College Affordability in Every Corner of California: Perspectives from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Poll

    Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, Michal Kurlaender, Austin Lyke, Teresita Martinez Policy Analysis for California Education June 2019

    California voters ranked college affordability as the second most important education policy issue in the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier poll, a concern reflected in Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget proposal and in a number of bills currently progressing through the state legislature. Though desire for making college affordable is high among the average voter, California’s geographic and socio-economic diversity demand that lawmakers consider local contexts when designing and implementing new reforms.

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

    Michal Kurlaender, Kramer Cohen Policy Analysis for California Education March 2019

    The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), implemented in California in 2014–15 as part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, is designed to evaluate students’ levels of college and career readiness. Student scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment are currently used for both accountability and school improvement purposes. Aligned with Common Core State Standards for college readiness, student performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment may also predict students’ success in college in a manner similar to other commonly used assessments for predicting college success.

  • Where California High School Students Attend College

    Michal Kurlaender, Sherrie Reed, Kramer Cohen, Matt Naven, Paco Martorell, Scott Carrell December 2018

    This report, part of an ongoing collaboration between researchers at the University of California, Davis and the California Department of Education, alleviates some of the unknowns about students’ postsecondary trajectories and provides a foundation for future research on college and career readiness.

  • Intersegmental Partnerships and Data Sharing: Promising Practices From the Field

    Sherrie Reed, Patrick Lee, Michal Kurlaender, Ambar Hernandez Policy Analysis for California Education July 2018

    Collaboration between K–12 public school districts and higher education, as well as between education institutions, workforce groups, and community organizations, has the potential to improve college and labor market outcomes for individual students and for local communities. However, improvement efforts demand the use of longitudinal data to define the problem, set goals, and monitor progress. California has been behind in building such a longitudinal data system—linked across pre-K through postsecondary sectors—to track individuals’ education and labor market outcomes.

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

    Michal Kurlaender, K.A. Kramer, Erika Jackson Policy Analysis for California Education March 2018

    Note: See March 2019 report for updates data and analysis from this March 2018 version.

  • Building Intersegmental Partnerships

    Elizabeth Friedmann Policy Analysis for California Education June 2017

    California’s education system is highly fragmented. K-12 schools, community colleges, and the two university systems (CSU and UC) operate under entirely separate governance structures, and rely on distinct sources of funding. As a result these different "segments" of the education system generally operate independently of one another, developing policies and practices to serve their own students with little or no effort to consult with other segments. In fact, however, addressing many of the educational issues that face our state successfully will require action by more than one segment.

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

    Michal Kurlaender, Eric Grodsky, Samuel J. Agronow, Catherine L. Horn December 2011

    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.

  • Effects of the California High School Exit Exam on Student Persistence, Achievement, and Graduation

    Sean Reardon, Michal Kurlaender Policy Analysis for California Education September 2009

    A new PACE policy brief summarizes the findings from a study investigating the impact of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) on California’s lowest performing students. Utilizing longitudinal data from four large urban school districts, Sean Reardon from Stanford and Michal Kurlaender from UC-Davis compare students scheduled to graduate just before (2005) and after (2006-07) the exit exam became a requirement for graduation from California high schools.

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