Panel: Measures of SES for Program Planning and Research: Findings from a Research-Practice Partnership in New York City

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
8206 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Colin Chellman, City University of New York
Discussants:  Katherine Michelmore, Syracuse University

Neighborhood and Individual Poverty in Students’ College-Going Trajectories
Kristin Black and Vanessa Coca, Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Alternatives to Using Pell Receipt As a Proxy for College Students’ Low-Income Status
Sarah Truelsch, Edward Rubio and Kerstin Gentsch, City University of New York

SES from the Ground up: Reflections on a Newly Established Research-Practice Data Collaboration
Judith Lorimer, Goddard Riverside Options Center and Lisa Merrill, Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Measuring SES has become an important agenda item in policy research in recent years (e.g., Michelmore & Dynarski, 2016; Rich, 2017; Domina et al., 2017), but there remains relatively little work on how various measures of SES operate at the intersection of research and practice. This panel explores three perspectives on defining and making sense of SES measures as part of a larger research-practice partnership in New York City.

The NYC Partnership for College Readiness and Success is a formal research-practice partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE), the City University of New York (CUNY), and the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University. The Partnership’s K-20 dataset links extensive information from K-12 administrative records of New York City students to their administrative records in the CUNY system and to enrollment records at any other U.S. college through the National Student Clearinghouse. We have also begun to work more directly with community-based organizations (CBOs) focused on college access, an extension of the Partnership work we describe in this panel.

The first paper in the session, authored by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, describes variation in enrollment, persistence, and graduation by both free/reduced lunch eligibility and median neighborhood income as reported in the American Community Survey data. The second paper in the panel, authored by the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at CUNY, describes the challenges of working with Pell eligibility, as well as some promising approaches that leverage Expected Family Contribution data. Finally, a paper from Goddard Riverside Options Center, one of our community partners, discusses the range of challenges CBOs face as they work to prepare low-income students to enroll and persist in college. This third paper responds directly to the work of the Research Alliance and CUNY, describing the challenges of SES measures from the perspective of practitioners working directly with students every day. 

Across the three papers, we describe the challenges and possibilities of measuring, using, and responding to markers of SES in the New York City context, and we reflect on aspects of our partnership that have contributed to our growing understanding of poverty in New York City. We pose some issues that we believe are relevant to researchers working in other spaces and other parts of the country, including the extent to which SES markers are highly contextual; the ways in which different definitions change the observed sample; and the disjuncture between the needs of program planning and research.

Our discussant for the session is Dr. Peter Rich, an Assistant Professor of Policy Analysis and Management and Sociology at Cornell. Dr. Rich has worked extensively on measures of SES. We anticipate this will be a lively discussion representing a wide variety of perspectives, and that the session will be both supportive of meaningful research and reflective of the realities of a complex and ever-changing city.

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