learn / 2019

Charting the Pathway to College: the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools' College Compass Program

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

Each young person—regardless of skin color or income—has the right to graduate high school well-prepared for success in college and a subsequent career. Through innovative school transformation programs, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools catalyzes dramatic academic improvements in the 14,000 high-need students enrolled in our network’s 18 LA Unified schools. Our groundbreaking College Compass program further engages and inspires students & parents on the K-12 pathway preparing for college.

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

On a recent visit to one of our elementary schools, Partnership CEO Joan Sullivan asked a kindergartner if he planned to go to college. “Yes!,” the student replied immediately. “And I’m in the Class of 2035!” The youngster’s knowledge of the year in which he is scheduled to graduate college did not surprise Joan. As part of building a college-going culture, all Partnership elementary schools are tasked with their students learning and remembering the year of their future college graduation. This activity is a small way in which the Partnership establishes an expectation of college among our youngest scholars.

Successful college preparedness flows out of the Partnership’s school transformation programs. The Partnership believes—and research supports—that resilient school principals with a clear vision are needed to transform schools, that effective teachers are essential to student learning, and that engaged parents are the most important force to their children’s academic achievement. Our community partners provide tremendous supports aligned to the priorities of our schools and students.

The Partnership’s school transformation programs strengthen the ability of each stakeholder group to play their key role in promoting student growth. As a result:

  • The Partnership has succeeded in more than doubling our network graduation rate from 36% (2008) to 79% (2018).

  • The percentage of Partnership graduating seniors accepted into four-year colleges and universities has grown markedly, from 32% (2015) to 50% (2018).

  • Between spring 2015 and spring 2018, the percentage of Partnership students proficient in English Language Arts grew a total of 15 percentage points, from 19% to 34%, while math rose by 9 points (with rounding), from 14% to 22%. These increases are substantially higher than average LA Unified improvements over the same time period.

The Partnership complements programs focused on building stakeholder capacity with a vibrant advocacy work stream dedicated to achieving the systemic changes needed for broad, sustainable transformation. In these ways, the Partnership continues to forge a pathway to ensure that in 12 years, members of the Class of 2035 will be fully-prepared to enter college.

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • College matriculation rates
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • Proficiency in English and Language Arts and Math

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • The 18 high-need LA Unified schools that comprise the Partnership network remain simultaneously part of the District; our schools are located in LA Unified feeder patterns located in the communities of Watts, South LA and Boyle Heights.

How will your project make LA the best place to learn?

A college degree is a lifeline for the Partnership’s 14,000 network students—just as it is for other marginalized students who call Los Angeles home. Among 25- to 34-year-old adults, those with a bachelor’s degree have annual median earnings almost two-thirds higher than people with only a high school degree or its equivalent (U.S. Dept. of Education). The boosted earning power of a bachelor’s degree gives students a way to significantly alter the trajectory of their lives, stabilize their families and re-energize their communities.

The Partnership’s college preparedness work has outsize importance because of our unique position as the largest in-district school turnaround operator working with LA Unified. As an independent 501(c)(3) organization, we partner under a Memorandum of Understanding with LA Unified to manage—and systematically transform—18 of the District’s historically-lowest-performing schools (TK-12) in Watts, South LA and Boyle Heights. A staggering 94% of Partnership students qualify as low-income; our network enrollment is 89% Latino and 9% African American.

Partnership schools stay within LA Unified by intent to incubate viable solutions that LA Unified then can scale to benefit all 500,000 District students. Based on our autonomy, we implement the Partnership’s transformation model to confront the profound challenges common to high-poverty schools. Designed around best practices, our comprehensive, integrated programs develop and strengthen expertise in key school stakeholders, including principals, teachers and parents, and promote deep connections with community partners. This increased capacity is leveraged to enhance our students’ academic accomplishments and social-emotional well-being—the foundation for college success.

The Partnership collaborates with nonprofit partners, including College Track and College Spring, to provide our high school students with year-long, targeted supports in such areas as college entrance exams, applications and financial aid. Each fall, all five Partnership high schools hold on-site College Fairs where seniors can meet directly with admissions officers from 10 to 20 four-year institutions. Every spring, the Partnership holds University Day, an activity-packed field trip that brings 1,000 network students and family members to a local university for what is often their first direct experience of a college campus.

The Partnership’s new K-12 College Compass program fosters a college-going culture through a series of grade-level experiences, shared expectations and regular communication carefully-designed for students and their parents. A cohesive K-12 curriculum accompanies a customized family tracker and student self-tracker, which promote investment in the student’s education and progress. College Compass also helps students visualize themselves as future college students, and families to envision them similarly. In 2018-19, we plan to expand the pilot from three to six network schools.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Post-pilot (testing an expansion of concept after initially successful pilot)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The Partnership will define and measure project success during the 2019-20 school year based on Partnership network students achieving the performance outcomes (below), each of which supports a LEARN metric. Most of these outcomes reflect annual increases of 3 percentage points, which is an accelerated growth rate compared to LA Unified’s average progress.

  • The Partnership network’s Spring 2020 student proficiency rate in English Language Arts (ELA) will reflect a 3-percentage-point increase above the Spring 2019 ELA proficiency rate, as measured by annual Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment (SBAC) results. (The proficiency rate represents the percentage of student test takers whose SBAC scores fall within the ranges of meeting or exceeding the Common Core State Standards for their grade.) Baseline: 34%, Spring 2018 SBAC ELA results. Related LEARN metric: Proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math.

  • The Partnership network’s Spring 2020 student proficiency rate in math will demonstrate growth of 3 percentage points from the Spring 2019 math proficiency rate, as measured by annual SBAC results. Baseline: 22%, Spring 2018 SBAC math results. Related LEARN metric: Proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math.

  • The graduation rate of the Partnership network’s Class of 2020 (four-year cohort) will increase by 2 percentage points from the Class of 2019’s graduation rate as measured by the California Department of Education. Baseline: 79%, Class of 2018. Related LEARN metric: District-wide graduation rates.

  • By June 2020, the percentage of eligible Partnership seniors accepted to a four-year college or university will increase by 3 percentage points from the June 2019 rate as measured by Partnership school records. Baseline: 50%, June 2018. Related LEARN metric: College matriculation rates.