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learn / 2014

LA Bridge: Ensuring Under-represented Students Enroll in and Graduate from Colleges in LA County

LA Bridge: Ensuring Under-represented Students Enroll in and Graduate from Colleges in LA County

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by College Bridge

Create a seamless transition linking high schools & colleges so LAUSD students can enroll in and graduate from postsecondary institutions


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Create a seamless transition linking high schools & colleges so LAUSD students can enroll in and graduate from postsecondary institutions

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The LA Bridge Project brings together HS teachers and college professors to co-teach college level courses that offer students the opportunity to bypass academic remediation. Students who successfully complete these classes earn college credit and satisfy all remediation requirements at all 23 CSU’s. This is critical as a major factor that hinders students’ ability to graduate from college is the high rate of academic remediation. Specifically, 1.7 million students nationwide place in remedial college classes annually at a staggering cost of $3 billion to states and the Federal government. This program is poised to be scaled-up to the five CSUs in LA County (CSULA, CSULB, CSUN, CSUDH, & Cal Poly Pomona).

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Students who place in remediation are less likely to graduate from college. Unfortunately, under-represented students are most likely to place in remedial courses and thus the probability that they will earn a college degree drop off sharply. This has a destructive effect on individuals and their communities by perpetuating the cycle of trans-generational poverty. The remediation dilemma is particularly pervasive across the largest public university system in the nation, the CSU, which spends close to $30 million annually on remediation resulting in lower graduation rates. This project tackles the remediation crisis in 3 new ways: (1) linking the work of HS teachers & college professors, (2) offering concurrent enrollment courses to students who are typically excluded, and (3) creating a sustainable and scalable solution.

First, college professors and HS teachers work together in the HS classroom during the regular school day. Traditionally, professors teach concurrent enrollment courses on college campuses without any involvement from K-12. Even when these courses are on HS campuses, they have consisted of professors teaching a class in isolation. In the LA Bridge Project, the professors and teachers co-teach using the same curriculum, textbook, assignments, assessments, & grading policies as the college courses. Further, the teachers & professors plan the courses together each summer & meet after each exam to score the tests together. This configuration alleviates the traditional blame game and builds sustainable relationships between K-12 and higher education faculties.

Second, under-represented students are traditionally excluded from concurrent enrollment opportunities. The thinking is that these courses are best suited for advanced students only, even though researchers consistently conclude that gifted students will be successful in college regardless of these opportunities. This project seeks to reverse that trend by offering these courses to students who have college aspirations but lack strong academic or consistent attendance records.

Finally, this project was designed for sustainability & scalability. Our program is sustainable as teachers who co-teach with professors are certified by the university to continue offering college-level courses to their students as adjunct professors. It’s scalable because once teachers are certified, they can co-teach with an additional colleague, certifying them as well.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

The Los Angeles Bridge Project will help to make LA the best place to learn by alleviating the college remediation problem early and at the root. The immediate impact of this program is having LAUSD students graduate from high school college-ready. The long-term impact is that low-income Angelenos will be afforded the social mobility that comes with earning a college degree. LA County will also benefit from this project, in the long-term, in that we will have a highly educated and skilled workforce.

Specifically, of the students who place in remediation, “fewer than 1 in 10 graduate from community colleges within three years and little more than a third complete bachelor’s degrees in six years.” This is detrimental as access to a college education is critical for improving people’s quality of life and society as a whole. On average, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree will result in $2.8 million in earned wages over a lifetime as opposed to $1.3 million with only a high school diploma. Society also benefits from a college-educated population with a robust economy, stronger civic engagement, and lower levels of crime, poverty, and healthcare costs. Unfortunately, college graduation rates for under-represented students (minority, first-generation, low-income) are decreasing in comparison to white, non-Hispanic students even though students of color constitute the nation’s fastest growing demographic. If current college graduation trends continue, there will be shortage of 16 million college-educated workers nationally and one million in California by the year 2025. Researchers have concluded that a major factor that hinders students’ ability to graduate from college is the high rate of academic remediation.

Students who are able to complete their college degree are adversely affected by remediation through the accumulation of greater debt, spending more time in college, and delaying their entrance into the workforce. This has a toxic effect on the nation and the state of California through lower income tax revenues and an unskilled workforce.

Los Angeles cannot afford to allow our most precious resource, our human capital, to go to waste. The solutions to our most pressing societal problems rest in the hearts and minds of our youth. Only by ensuring that the next generation of Angelenos see themselves as viable agents of change, can we ensure a brighter future for our great city and county.

Whom will your project benefit?

The LA Bridge Project will benefit under-represented (minority, low-income, first-generation college) students from LAUSD. Specifically, we serve students residing in Downtown, East and South Los Angeles through CSULA, the San Fernando Valley through CSUN, and the South Bay through CSUDH. We target the lowest performing schools in the most economically disadvantaged areas of the school district. The median household income of the families in these communities is $22,650. As a result, 46% of them live below the poverty line and on average 99% of the students in these areas are eligible for free or reduced lunch. On average, only 54% of our students matriculate in post-secondary institutions compared to the school district average of 62% and the national average of 63%. We strategically target students who have college aspirations but not necessarily the strongest academic or attendance records.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

The Los Angeles Bridge Project began as a strategic partnership between LAUSD, CSULA, and College Bridge in the 2013-2014 school year. The initial pilot focused only on mathematics. Due to the significant early success of this program, CSULA scaled the project to an additional high school and added English for the 2014-2015 school year. MOUs are in place with CSULA and LAUSD. Additionally, we plan to scale-up through the north and south LAUSD service areas with CSUN and CSUDH. CSUN are confirmed partners with the MOU pending. CSUDH is in the early stages of partnership development.

All three of these CSUs in the Los Angeles metropolitan area bring key benefits to this project. They offer in-kind donations of the professors’ salaries, use of university equipment and space, educational outreach (tutoring, college counseling, and school orientation), and financial aid resources (FAFSA workshops). LAUSD offers in-kind donations by providing the teacher and facilities to offer the courses in the regular school day. The three factors that are critical to the success of these collaborations are buy-in from (1) LAUSD high school teachers, (2) CSU professors, and (3) administrators in both LAUSD and CSUs.

The LA Bridge Project ensures buy-in from all stakeholders by linking the work of the school district and higher education institutions. We bring together high school teachers and college professors to co-teach college-level math and English courses in order to offer students the opportunity to bypass academic remediation. By working shoulder to shoulder, this project eschews the traditional blame game and serves as bidirectional professional development for both instructors and administrators.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Learn” metrics?

  • College matriculation rates

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

The three explicit metrics that anchor our work are: (1) to increase college matriculation rates to 75% (compared to high poverty schools’ average of 54% and LAUSD’s 62%), (2) to decrease the academic remediation rate to 33% (compared to CSULA’s average of 61%), and (3) to increase the college persistence rate to 80% (compared to CUSLA’s average of 63%).

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

The evaluation of the LA Bridge Project has been funded through a generous $358,545 grant from The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The overarching program goal is to create a cogent student educational pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepare students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce). The three explicit metrics that anchor our work are: (1) to increase college matriculation rates to 75% (compared to high poverty schools’ average of 54% and LAUSD’s 62%), (2) to decrease the academic remediation rate to 33% (compared to CSULA’s average of 61%), and (3) to increase the college persistence rate to 80% (compared to CUSLA’s average of 63%).

Specifically, we measure the efficacy of our project in both micro and macro terms. From a micro-analysis, we utilize the pass rates on the college courses (MATH 109 and ENGL 101), as these are a proxy for both decreasing the remediation rates and college readiness. The course pass rates are predicated on the students’ performance on the midterm, final, and course projects.

From a macro-analysis, we monitor the students’ rates of college matriculation and persistence. This is critical as the overarching goal is to help under-represented students enroll in and graduate from college in the shortest amount of time possible.

The data collection instruments that we use are both quantitative and qualitative. Numerically, we look for comparative changes in our students’ matriculation, persistence, and course pass rates versus those of a control group. Those data are then benchmarked against the numbers the university normally obtains absent our intervention. Quantitative analysis allows us to understand what is happening while qualitative inquiry explains why and how. We use open-ended surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with all stakeholders to collect the qualitative data.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

The LA Bridge Project grew out of the doctoral work of our founder, Dr. Lynn Cevallos. Her dissertation at UCLA entitled, “Best Practices of P-20 Partnerships Designed to Increase College Access and Persistence for Under-represented Students” laid the groundwork for College Bridge’s theory of change. Simultaneously it also anchored our partnerships in the best practices she uncovered. As such, the three overarching lessons that guide our project are: (1) structure transparent partnerships in order to foster accountability and sustainability, (2) find champions for the work, and (3) focus on student needs.

First, the collaborative co-teaching model provides transparency and shared accountability as all partners have first-hand experience in the project. The collaborative planning and grading processes also ensure that all partners provide equitable student experiences across all participating high schools and universities. Finally, since all partners are involved in all stages of implementation, they each have buy-in thus sustaining the project throughout their respective institutions.

Second, College Bridge carefully vets out potential partners in search of champions for the work. This is critical since inter-segmental work is not a job requirement of teachers or professors, thus individuals must have intrinsic motivation driving their participation. These champions are fiercely student-centered and are rewarded by student success. They are also strong leaders who will help their peers understand the value of this work. The champions are the people who are willing to allocate resources for the projects and galvanize commitment from their respective institutions. We are very fortunate to have assembled an all-star partnership full of these tireless champions.

Finally, our project has a laser sharp focus on student needs allowing the partnership work to overcome what ordinarily would be insurmountable institutional barriers. Specifically, the LA Bridge Project uses student data to set common goals. These goals then follow the student trajectory through the entire P-20 pipeline. Ultimately, we seek to change the culture and mindset at each partner institution from a completion agenda to the students’ end goal.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

The LA Bridge Project’s success to date and the deep ties with LAUSD have been powerful incentives in encouraging CSUN and CSUDH to join the partnership. Specifically, the original pilot project at Santee Education Complex significantly decreased the college math remediation rate. In the fall of 2013, 83% of Santee’s students who enrolled as freshmen at any CSU required remediation in math. After this intervention, however, only 24% of students may require any math remediation at all. The other 76% have officially demonstrated readiness for college-level math by passing CSULA’s MATH 109 (Statistics and Quantitative Reasoning) course. In fact, our students beat CSULA’s 2012 average pass rate for this course by 11 percentage points.

Based on the strength of these results, the LA Bridge Project was expanded to include CSULA’s English Composition I during the 2014-2015 school year. The results also garnered CSUN’s attention. During the spring of 2014, College Bridge, CSUN and LAUSD North confirmed a new partnership and drafted a MOU. CSUN and LAUSD North will join partnership meetings with CSULA and LAUSD East in August 2014.

CSUDH expressed interest in the spring of 2014 and Dr. Bravo, superintendent of LAUSD ESC South, immediately brought in his principals for an information session. After the vetting process was completed by College Bridge, three high schools were chosen for implementation over three years. However, CSUDH has not yet begun the MOU process so the goal for next year is to formalize this additional partnership.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The two major challenges we anticipate with the LA Bridge Project are: (1) ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders across each partner institution and (2) the potential to scale-up too quickly. The strategy we have developed in order to ameliorate these potential problems is to anchor all of our work on the best practices of successful P-20 partnerships. Specifically, we will ensure transparency and include all stakeholders during every step of the project. This is critical in order to galvanize the champions within each partner institution to move the partnership work forward while committing key resources from their individual organizations.

Similarly, we will ensure that we do not scale-up this project in a haphazard manner by being mindful of balancing fidelity to the original intervention and adaptation to each new partner that joins our work. We have developed a managed growth strategy that includes adding no more than one university partner each year. Additionally, each university partner may only add one additional high school each year. At this rate, College Bridge is able to continually evaluate the efficacy of the project as it scales and work collaboratively with the partners to determine and implement adjustments.

What resources does your project need?