This journal article provides a review of causes and policy solutions of two equity problems: (a) Too many college students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the United States do not complete their coursework with any college credential, whereas others earn degrees or certificates with little labor market value; and (b) many of these students also struggle to pay for college, and some incur debts that they have difficulty repaying. Solutions include those focused on both individual students and institutional reform.
This journal article investigates the research and policy implications of test optional practices, considering both sides of the debate. Drawing on the expertise of higher education researchers, admissions officers, enrollment managers, and policy professionals, it provides a much-needed evaluation of the use and value of standardized admissions tests in an era of widespread grade inflation.
AIR is evaluating IDEA (Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement) Public Schools’ implementation of two computer science interventions that aim to (a) increase access to and participation in rigorous mathematics and computer science coursework among students who are traditionally underrepresented and (b) increase the number of teachers with deep content knowledge in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) within schools predominantly consisting of students from low-income backgrounds. The goals of the evaluation are to determine if the two interventions are improving students’ performance on district, state, and Advanced Placement mathematics assessments and if they contribute to postsecondary STEM aspirations.
AIR is partnering with Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities to research and disseminate information about the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program, an initiative that supports diversity and inclusion in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) postsecondary programs. The overarching goal of this grant is to generate and share knowledge about best practices to promote broad participation of students who are underrepresented within the higher education community.
AIR’s work with the College Completion Network brings together research teams to share ideas, build knowledge, conduct sound research, and share findings about postsecondary success. The Network’s goals include evaluating promising interventions related to college completion, building knowledge about college completion and postsecondary success, providing policymakers and college leaders with reliable evidence, and strengthening the work of Network research teams through collaboration.
AIR is evaluating STEMfast, a program developed by New Mexico Highlands University to provide comprehensive support services to Hispanic students and students from low-income backgrounds who are studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEMfast addresses the underrepresentation of these students in STEM fields and works to decrease the likelihood that developmental core subject courses will deter these students from persisting and graduating from college.
The Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, operated by AIR, is conducting a formative evaluation of the Minnesota Learning Center Networked Improvement Community (NIC). The goal is to assess the functioning of the NIC and share a methodology for evaluating the implementation of NICs. Interest is growing in using NICs to address complex problems of educational practice, and this evaluation will contribute to the limited body of research on the extent to which NICs are operating as planned and intended.
AIR’s College and Career Readiness and Success Center launched the State Work-Based Learning Initiative to help support states in designing, scaling, and implementing work-based learning (WBL) efforts as a strategy to improve student college and career readiness. This initiative is based on four state-led, peer-to-peer networks that focus on specific WBL priorities, promote cross-state learning, and engage external WBL experts. The goals of the initiative are to collect and share emerging strategies, identify common challenges, and develop resources related to the implementation of WBL.
AIR is conducting a 50-month research and evaluation project of 29 institutions and two state systems to enhance the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s and the broader field’s understanding of the institutional transformation process. The goal of the project is to share findings and results from institutional-level and cross-case data related to what catalyzes the transformation process at an institution, the key components of effective models of transformation, how stakeholders are engaged in the transformation process, the timeline for seeing visible changes in institutional and student outcomes, and the risks to transformation.
AIR is serving as an evaluation partner for the Data for the American Dream (D4AD) initiative. D4AD supports innovative efforts to expand access to education and career data, with the specific goal of helping students and jobseekers make better career decisions in a changing economy through data-driven information, and especially to help low-income and unemployed Americans access better jobs and education opportunities. AIR’s role is to help grantees, sponsors, and the field learn from these efforts.