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Research for Action awarded first IES Education Research Grant

Research for Action has been awarded a $3.2 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), United States Department of Education, to conduct research on implementation and impacts of developmental education curricular reform for postsecondary students in California. The IES grant was awarded through a competitive, independent review process and covers 100 percent of project expenses. RFA’s five-year study will examine the implementation, impact, and cost-effectiveness of developmental education curricular reform across California’s community college system. With 116 community colleges across the state, California’s is the largest community college system in the nation.

“In response to Assembly Bill 705, California’s community colleges are adopting placement policies that focus on high school transcript data in order to place more students out of developmental education and into college-level courses,” said Dr. Kri Burkander, RFA Senior Research Associate who is serving as the principal investigator (PI) on the study. “This study provides a critical opportunity to understand the impact of these placement reforms on student outcomes, identify institutional factors that have supported or thwarted implementation, and detect which co-curricular supports are most effective for which subpopulations of students.”

Burkander will lead the project along with co-PIs Dr. Dae Kim, RFA’s Chief Statistician, and Dr. Lauren Schudde, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at The University of Texas-Austin. RFA has also assembled a research advisory panel of national experts including Dr. Larry Hedges, Board of Trustees Professor of Statistics and Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, Dr. Rebecca Maynard, Professor Emeritus of Education and Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Judith Scott-Clayton, Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, who will provide guidance on design and analysis across the strands of research, which include comprehensive examinations of impact,implementation, and cost-effectiveness.

This field-building study would not be possible without the support and collaboration of the California Community Colleges. Valerie Lundy-Wagner, Interim Vice Chancellor of Digital Innovation and Infrastructure for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office wrote that the agency, “looks forward to working with RFA to understand the effects of AB 705 on equitable student outcomes. The results of this research will help better understand the impact of the legislation and related implementation, as well as inform a national conversation on the best ways to place students and support their access to and success in transfer-level coursework.”

“I am extremely proud of RFA’s strong research partnerships and innovative design that led to IES’s selection of our project for this prestigious research grant,” said Dr. Kate Callahan, RFA’s Executive Director. “This study of developmental education reforms has sweeping implications for the field of higher education and aligns with RFA’s mission to conduct research that advances equity in opportunities and outcomes for underserved students and their families. Policymakers, educators, and students need evidence about the impacts of curricular reforms like those being implemented in California to support student success and I am thrilled that RFA’s IES-funded research will address this need.”