Roundtable: Central Texas Student Futures Project: Lessons From a Practitioner-Researcher Partnership

Thursday, November 8, 2012: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Hanover B (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Greg Cumpton, University of Texas, Austin
Speakers:  Christopher King, University of Texas, Austin, Drew Scheberle, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Kristin Boyer, TG and Camille Clay, Leander Independent School District
Moderators:  Deanna Schexnayder, LBJ School/ Univ of Texas

High schools, in their broadest sense, prepare students for life after high school, including college and employment. With education budget cuts across the country, an increasing number of local districts lack the resources to follow students and assess how well schools prepared their graduates for this transition. How can schools and districts effectively allocate ever scarcer resources to deal with issues that are readily defined as part of their mission, but are not legislatively required by the state? One potentially replicable example of developing a broader community focused on this issue is the Central Texas Student Futures Project (CTSFP), a seven year old regional collaborative of local area school districts, local business leaders, state agencies, funders and non-profits providing college access services and working together to improve college enrollment and workforce outcomes for high school graduates in the region. Balancing funding across organizations means that the CTSFP maximizes the ability of participants to share and act upon information learned from the project without reducing funding for other critical district efforts. The CTSFP annually surveys the graduating classes from approximately 30 high schools in 10 Central Texas school districts in the last semester of their senior year and links that information both to the student administrative data collected by each school district and to future college enrollment and employment information. The survey asks qualitative questions about a student's family educational background, perceptions of college readiness in different subject areas, study/work habits, and the completion of key college preparation activities (submission of FAFSA, the Texas common application, etc). The CTSFP provides performance management information, fostering educational improvement by providing real-time data to educators and helping to identify and share best practices through various dissemination activities. Pooling resources and utilizing regional synergies is not enough to change outcomes over the long run. Additionally, the CTSFP provides regional stakeholders longitudinal research on what Central Texas graduates do after high school and how educational, personal and financial factors relate to graduates’ success in postsecondary education and the workforce. While there is growing acknowledgement of the need for ‘researcher-practitioner partnerships’ (as evidenced by a new IES grant category by the same name), there are not insignificant barriers to developing and growing such a community. There are multiple practical and policy difficulties that researchers and local education agencies are likely to encounter in such endeavors. Representatives from the Ray Marshall Center (LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin), Leander and Hays Consolidated ISDs, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and TG will overview the project and its findings. Specifically, participants will learn about the overall program design, how school districts have applied lessons learned from the data to enhance student access to higher education, and how private funders have supported the project. This project’s approach—its collaborative nature, its effective use of scarce resources, its access to data, and its research and performance management aspects—together suggest a model for possible replication in other regions of the country.

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