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In This Issue:

UTD-ERC Assists in Creating First Nationwide Research & Reporting System Connecting High Schools to Postsecondary Outcomes
TSP Seminar Series: Apr. 7 Topic - Advanced Placement
"The Spaces Between Numbers"
Researcher Profile – Deanna Schexnayder
Data Holdings Update

UTD-ERC Assists in Creating First Nationwide Research & Reporting System Connecting High Schools to Postsecondary Outcomes

The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC) will work with the National Student Clearinghouse and others in the development of a groundbreaking high school research and reporting system that will allow participating high schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to better measure the academic success of their students after they graduate. The pilot, called “Tracking Postsecondary Outcomes for High Schools,” aims to develop high-quality, actionable, data-driven reports linking K-12 and postsecondary data that can be used by schools, districts, and states to improve the college readiness and success of their students.

Supported by a $2.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the pilot is a collaboration among the Clearinghouse, the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, College Summit, MPR Associates, and state and local education agencies in Florida, Georgia, and Texas. The pilot will build on the Clearinghouse’s unique database containing college enrollment and degree information nationwide, to develop actionable reports linking student-level K-12 data with postsecondary outcomes, as well as a web tool and related professional development.

The resulting product will be an expansion of the Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker for High Schools system, which will address the urgent need within the education community for a standardized method for measuring the actual educational outcomes of students once they finish high school. Currently, there is no universally accepted way to determine the postsecondary attainment of high school students. As a result, U.S. policy makers and educators are unable to uniformly assess the performance of the nation's secondary school system and make information-based decisions on policy and program improvements.

"This grant represents an incredible opportunity for the Clearinghouse and our participating institutions to contribute to a greater understanding of the country's educational efforts," said Clearinghouse President Rick Torres. "Most importantly, by providing an accurate and consistent way to measure student achievement, we enable educators to better prepare the nation's students to compete and succeed."

Over the next 16 months, the Clearinghouse, its partners, and organizations from three pilot states, including the UTD-ERC, will conduct data matching tests, redesign reports, develop new analysis tools, create professional development materials, and obtain user feedback. “We are pleased to be involved in this important project,” said Jim Parsons, Assistant Director of Texas Schools Project, the organization that manages the UTD-ERC. “Providing user-friendly tools that allow educators and policymakers to assess postsecondary student outcomes will be highly beneficial in many ways.”

The Texas school districts participating in the pilot include Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio. All Texas school districts also are eligible to use the current version of StudentTracker for High Schools at no charge. Interested parties should email Joe Roof, the Clearinghouse Regional Director for Texas, at [email protected].

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TSP Seminar Series: Apr. 7

Texas Schools Project continues its regular 2009-2010 Seminar Series with a presentation by Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein, senior researcher at Texas Schools Project and a nationally-known expert in Advanced Placement:

Wednesday, April 7
12:00 - 1:00 pm
"The AP Arms Race: Is Grade Weighting to Blame?"

The University of Texas at Dallas, Green Hall - Room 4.301

High school rank is heavily considered in college admissions decisions and takes on a particular importance in states, like Texas, with percent plans. When calculating class rank, most high schools give additional weight to grades earned in College Board Advanced Placement (AP) courses. This weighting creates a competitive situation where students may take more AP classes than they optimally would, trying to gain an advantage over their peers.

For more information about Dr. Klopfenstein and her presentation, go to the Events page of our website.

For future planning, these seminars generally occur on the first Wednesday and third Friday of each month.
Questions? Contact Kristin Klopfenstein - [email protected] or 972.883.2379
No registration is required.

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"The Spaces Between Numbers"

Texas Schools Project was privileged to have Dr. Cliff Adelman speak at a recent Texas Schools Project seminar. Adelman, a senior associate with the Institute for Higher Education Policy, spent nearly 30 years as a senior research analyst with the U.S. Department of Education. There he contributed to the landmark “A Nation at Risk” report and designed the higher education follow-up to that report, “Involvement in Learning,” which served as a platform for the assessment movement in higher education in the 1990’s.

He is most well-known as the author of several studies that served as benchmarks in education and set agendas for policymakers, including “Answers in the Toolbox: Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns, and Bachelor’s Degree Attainment,” a seminal report on the impact of high school curriculum on college success.

Since leaving the Department of Education, the topics of Adelman’s work have been reflective of his first post-Department of Education paper, “The Propaganda of Numbers.” Combining this with his interest in international issues, Adelman wrote and discussed, “The Spaces Between Numbers: Getting International Data on Higher Education Straight.”

He began the seminar by discussing the Bologna Process, an international higher education reform effort of 46 countries, focused on establishing compatible higher education systems. “It proves that massive higher education reform is possible – and it’s possible across borders,” he said.

Adelman then spoke about the premise of his paper – inaccurate international higher education comparisons. “We love self-flagellation in this country,” he said. “Virtually every report on U.S. higher education claims we are doing poorly compared with other countries, usually OECD countries. It’s become a religion.” He mentioned that while Americans love to make educational comparisons to other countries, the United States is a significantly larger and more diverse country than those to whom we compare against.

He then identified and extrapolated on the problems that arise when comparing international data including language landscape; coverage of different transnational accounts, such as UNESCO, Eurostat, World Bank, and OECD; context, including volatility in time series data, massification periods, and basic history; macro population issues; use of full-census versus sample data; and the fog of unclear definitions and missing data across countries.

Adelman concluded by saying, “My point is . . . that everybody is going to continue to use OECD data . . . but we need to present comparative data in ways that we’ll feel confident . . . And, we do it not to say that one country does better than another but rather that we all understand what we have to do to improve the education of our students in a world without borders.”

Slides and a video of Dr. Adelman’s presentation can be found on the Events page of our website.

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Researcher Profile – Deanna Schexnayder

Deanna Schexnayder is associate director and a senior research scientist with the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin.

Her areas of interest include program evaluation, work and family, child care and education policy. She has authored or co-authored many research reports on these topics over the past twenty-five years, which have been published and presented to a range of national audiences.

Since 1985, Schexnayder has supervised the assembly of complex statistical research data sets from confidential, individual-level administrative data files spanning 16 different programs in Texas and other states. She recently served on a National Academy of Sciences expert panel that advised the U.S. Census Bureau on strategies for combining survey and administrative data in the re-engineering of its Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).

For the past five years, Schexayder has co-directed an ongoing, large-scale research project titled the Central Texas Student Futures Project. This project reports on postsecondary education and employment outcomes for Central Texas area high school graduates annually and uses a variety of multivariate research techniques to identify factors linked to successful post-graduation outcomes. Findings are shared with participating school districts each year, allowing districts and schools to better understand the links between their preparation and high school students’ later success in college, training or the workplace.

Schexnayder is using UTD-ERC data for two projects, “An Analysis of Early Education Factors Associated with School Success in the Elementary Years” and “College Readiness, Transition and Performance.”

The early education project is an exploratory analysis of the relationship between participation in pre-kindergarten and other early childhood programs and student success in the early school years. The project will also identify key factors associated with early school success among low-income and limited English learners across different program and policy environments within Texas.

The “College Readiness, Transition and Performance” project expands on Schexnayder’s work with the Central Texas Student Futures Project, comparing all Texas high school students’ transitions to those in Central Texas. Originally, the focus was only on graduation rates, college enrollment, and factors associated with successful transitions to postsecondary education. However, with the planned addition of National Student Clearinghouse and Texas Workforce Commission wage data to the ERC data warehouse, the project has now evolved to include comparisons of employment outcomes as well.

Schexnayder commented, “This spring we’ll test the feasibility of using ERC educational and employment records in lieu of similar data that we now collect directly under existing data-sharing agreements with organizations that provide data for our Student Futures Project. If this experiment is successful, it could eliminate the need for us to obtain and merge many disparate data files from at least 12 different organizations, resulting in major cost-savings for future years of the Student Futures Project.”

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Data Holdings Update - March 22, 2010

The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC), part of Texas Schools Project, houses a wealth of data provided by the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and State Board for Educator Certification.

A complete listing of current data available can be found on our website under Data Holdings.

Information on accessing this data can be found on our website under Access.

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A research center within the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences