Public Release: 

UC Davis researchers receive grant to study K-12 student readiness

University of California - Davis

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."

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."


About the UC Davis School of Education

The UC Davis School of Education marshals the knowledge and resources of the University of California to confront and eliminate inequities among people and communities through the generation of impactful knowledge and the promise of education. The School of Education engages in research and policy analysis that bear on student attainment and success, and prepares and mentors high-quality teachers and educational leaders who serve as advocates for all learners.

About the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research

The Center for Poverty Research is one of three federally designated centers whose mission is to facilitate and disseminate nonpartisan academic research on poverty in the U.S. and to train the next generation of poverty scholars. Its research agenda focuses on labor markets and poverty, children and intergenerational transmission of poverty, the nontraditional safety net, and immigration. Find the center online at:

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