learn / 2014

PlanYour Future: Helping 6th-12th grade students plan prepare and figure out how to pay for college

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Foundation for California Community Colleges (Fiscal Sponsor)

CCGI helps 6th-12th grade students develop well-informed plans for their education and careers after high school.


Please describe yourself.

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

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

CCGI helps 6th-12th grade students develop well-informed plans for their education and careers after high school.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

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

  • Currently we benefit 6th-12th grade students in Culver City, El Monte, El Rancho, Hacienda La Puente and Pomona Unified School Districts

What is your idea/project in more detail?

CCGI takes a three pronged approach to our goal of ensuring that all high school students graduate with a post-secondary plan. We:

1) Build mobile (in development) and web based (CaliforniaColleges.edu) college and career planning tools that allow each student to develop their own individual portfolio.

2) Partner with K-12 districts to integrate our tools into instructional time and counseling practice (both school based counselors and partner CBOS/university based outreach programs) so that all students meet 18 college and career planning milestones.

3) Facilitate collaboration between our district partners and local colleges/universities to use student portfolios for college recruitment, admission and first year academic placement.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

In 2013-2014 CCGI piloted our work in four school districts (3 in LA County) reaching more than 25,000 students. During 2014-2015 we’ve added two additional districts in the region. Our partnerships with districts allow for:

1) Student portfolios to be populated with verified academic transcript data so that guidance can be personalized to each student.

2) Counselor accounts that allow for the case-management and tracking of student progress (individually and/or in the aggregate) on 18 college and career planning milestones.

3) Analysis of student progress (individually and in the aggregate) on the 15 course sequence (A-G coursework) that students must pass in order to achieve minimum eligibility requirements for the California State and University of California systems.

4) A CCGI staff person is assigned to each district to support development of college and career planning requirements for students, and the associated implementation plan. Implementation plans include which milestones will be met by grade level, which lesson plans will be used to help students navigate the system and complete those key milestones, how those lesson plans will be integrated into counseling or instructional time, and who will deliver those lessons.

5) CCGI staff then build capacity among district personnel to facilitate the lesson plans and maximize utilization of the tools we provide.

We work with counselors and students to inform ongoing iteration of our tools. This year our primary focus is revisions to the financial aid section of the website.

In addition to “on-the-ground” implementation, we work with individual campuses and higher education systems to:

1) Support utilization of data from student portfolios for: a) admissions in the CSU System (students can apply directly from their portfolio on our system, and their academic data is considered verified for admission) b) first year academic placement in community college – allowing for a 25-30% reduction in remedial coursework placements.

Additionally, our partnerships with K-12 districts begin in January of the school year prior to implementation. Accordingly, January-September of 2015 will be spent developing additional partnerships in the region.

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

By 2050, a student in LA will have ongoing college and career planning activities integrated into their educational experience irrespective of school district from 6th grade forward (likely earlier). All of those activities will contribute to their cumulative portfolio on CaliforniaColleges.edu which will be used to support counseling, recruitment, admissions, educational planning and the entire (seamless) application process to colleges, and financial aid/scholarship providers. The resultant rich repository for data about career aspirations and college readiness will be used by employers and educators in the state to support a rational and thougtful approach to developing native talent to meet our workforce needs and ensure a healthy and vibrant economy.

Today, we are proving pieces of this overarching concept, in real time with school districts, colleges and students themselves. Our progress on A-G analysis and planning tools during 2014-2015 will allow us to help districts increase the numbers of students who graduate eligible for admissions to a four year college or university. Increased awareness of post-secondary options and degree pathways will help students to more fully understand the steps ahead of them and arrive at post-secondary ready to succeed.

Whom will your project benefit?

We view our work as accountable first and foremost to students, and we place them at the center of the equation at all times. While our work focuses primarily on 6th-12th grade students, we house resources on our site for community college students and both the college and career planning resources on the site are relevant to adult learners as well.

Our secondary clients include:

Middle and high school counselors: with the worst counseling ratios in the country, California’s school counselors manage average caseloads of 945 students each. We provide tools, lesson plans and user support to help counselors maximize the efficiency with whichthey work with each student, and automate portions of their work (nagging students for forms can be accomplished by mobile app notofication) so that their time can be used for actual counseling.

Schools and districts: benefit by being able to track students progress in ways they’ve not had access to before. This is especially important as we are likely to see college readiness become a key indicator in API scores, as well as Local Control Accountability Plans.

CSU Admissions: By providing CSU with pre-verified transcript data (already used for A-G progress analysis with students), we prevent them from having to re-enter data, or hand check transcripts against the Doorways database at UC Office of the President. At scale, this has the potential to save the system $12-$15M system- wide. More important this increases their ability to provide timely and accurate financial aid packages, and to devote more resources to student guidance and counseling during the counseling and admissions process.

Community Colleges: Despite growing recognition that high school transcripts are key to successful first year academic placement, community colleges (as open access institutions) do not and will not request or require that transcript data from students. Our system allows them not only to access transcript data for that purpose, but non-academic data about student’s career exploration and aspirations that will support educational planning.

Community and University based college preparation programs: Counselors in these programs generally lack access to student’s transcript data. By linking their portfolio to approved providers (we have an approval process), we help to unify and maximize the efforts of all adults participating in a student’s planning process.

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

We have signed MOUs with all five LA county school districts (named above), three of whom already have active data uploads to our system. The two newer districts are actively working on the file format that allows them to load data into our system.

CCGI staff have been assigned to the districts and are actively working on 2014-2015 implementation plans.

Outside of K-12 districts, we have very active partnerships with the following institutions of higher education:

1) CSU Chancellor’s office - has invested $170K in the engineering required to articulate CaliforniaColleges.edu with their CSU Mentor Application platform to allow for seamless application by students and receipt of pre-verified transcript data by their campuses offices of admissions.

2) Rio Hondo Community College is piloting the use of data from our file format for first year academic placement of approximately 350 first year students who graduated from El Monte High school District in Spring 2014. Rio’s Dean of Counseling works closely with CCGI to inform the development of counseling tools, messaging and the higher ed user role on our professional center/counselor facing portal - to maximize the use of our system for smoothing transition to community colleges. Our goals include expansion to all Rio Hondo’s feeder districts (we are in three of six already) to prove the ability to place all incoming students based on transcripts rather than placement exams.

3) We have initial conversations underway with LAUSD’s Director of Secondary Education, Gerardo Loera, as well as local superintendent Bravo (ESC South), to pilot the use of CCGI tools in their high schools.

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

  • Percentage of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • College matriculation rates
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce) (Dream Metric)

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

Percentage of community colleges students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program

CCGI impacts this metric in two ways: 1) studies from the RP group, Community College Research Center, and from Long Beach City College, all indicate that high school transcripts are a better predictor of performance in college coursework than any of the placement exams currently in use in the Community College system. Use of transcripts allow for 25-30% fewer students to place into remedial coursework. Students who get caught in remediation have only a 26% chance of transferring or completing a degree. We are already pilot testing the use of high school transcript data from our system for first year academic placement in math at Rio Hondo College.

2) Additionally, we are on the front end of a collaboration with the academic senate of the community colleges to integrate educational planning tools for community college bound students onto our web-platform.

Increased graduation rates: One cause of high drop out rates is that students don’t understand the relevance of their education to their lives and their futures. All of our work is designed to illuminate and reinforce that connection.

College Matriculation Rates: Lack of college knowledge, and lack of a college going culture are two key barriers to college matriculation. Our entire enterprise is designed to combat those two barriers.

Seamless pipelines: Our work addresses not just college readiness, but college transition as well. We do so in the following ways:

1) We are working towards as seamless a set of tools as possible and CSU’s chancellor’s office is the earliest partner in our effort to make all application systems seamless for students. Moving forward students should be able to use their portfolio on CaliforniaColleges.edu to populate not just CSU Mentor, but UC Apply and their Cal-grant GPA verification, thereby reducing the possibility of falling through the cracks. More seamless application processes allow for more timely financial aid packages – which is the make or break factor in a student’s decision making process about college.

2) Our dual emphasis on career and college planning helps students to make the connections early between careers and educational goals so that they choose the right colleges and majors to help them enter those fields.

3) Our mobile app and other tools provide continuous support during the summer after high school, to prevent “summer melt.”

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Three specific metrics: 1) Increased A-G completion rates (previous studies suggest this will take a few years of high quality implementation to achieve) 2) 75% completion of grade level milestones in partner districts 3) 20-30% reduction in remedial placement at participating community colleges

This project collects extraordinary amounts of data, including – analytics on utilization of our tools, student progress on 18 college and career milestones, applications submitted, transcripts sent, unitary level academic data for each student, and qualitative feedback from all user groups. We can additionally articulate data sets with our higher education partners to run queries about post-matriculation outcomes.

While we have an external evaluator on contract, we are in the process of redefining our evaluation questions as information gathered and lessons learned during our first year have spurred new thinking about the various dimensions of this work.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

1) Provide resources and support – not a model to replicate: Our success to date is attributable to several factors, but chief among them is our willingness to work with districts on their terms. While we have suggestions about how best to integrate our tools, we view ourselves as a set of resources and support for the college and career readiness agenda/strategy within each district and adapt accordingly. We do not provide model that they must implement with fidelity.

2) Solve active pain points: Rather than asking people use and master the full range of tools available to them on our platforms, we work to identify the pain points they are struggling with or problems they want to solve in the immediate term, and design our user support and professional development to assist them in that process. We believe that this leads to more willing and enthusiastic utilization.

Both of these lessons apply to all levels of partnership - K-12 districts, higher education partners etc.- if we are not genuinely helping our partners advance their own student success goals, nor helping them to solve immediate pain points, then we are not adding value to their work.

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

While ambitious, our work is entirely achievable because it leverages the energy and focus of so many partners across the educational system. By providing tools, resources and a customer-centric approach to user support, our team helps counselors and educators across the region to do their jobs better and more efficiently. This builds good will, helps to extend the reach and impact of all the adults working with students on college and career readiness and helps us all to learn from one another’s innovations.

During the last school year we were testing for demand for and utility of our platforms, as well as the willingness of K-12 and higher education partners to partner with us, and our ability to effectively (securely and accurately) build data bridges to populate student portfolios with academic data.

This year, our focus is on learning how to most effectively support integration of our tools into counseling and instructional practice so that students maximize the use of the tools in their college and career planning process.

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

The two major challenges and barriers to this work are: 1) Bandwidth – all partners are stretched thin and working on multiple tracks. For example, we anticipate common core implementation taking precedence over the integration of our tools during instructional time in districts.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Quality improvement research