This work was made possible through the generous support of The James Irvine Foundation.
Bridging the Gap Series Overview
Bridging the Gap (BtG) supports successful student transitions from high school to postsecondary, via cross-system, education partnerships. With funding from The James Irvine Foundation, BtG partnerships focus on first-generation college students, students of color, and low-income students who face substantial barriers in meeting their educational goals.
This series explores the experiences of two California partnerships that joined the Bridging the Gap initiative in 2016: one in Long Beach and the other in the Salinas Valley. Based on interviews and surveys with faculty, staff and administrators we sought to understand the systemic, institutional, and equity challenges facing the partnerships and how they operationalized their efforts to address them. We attempt to answer the question: How have two distinct regional education partnerships worked across systems to increase college readiness for broad populations of students?
The BtG initiative coincided with policy reforms at the state and system levels to transform curricular and assessment practices in the K-12 schools, basic skills and developmental education at the California Community Colleges, and remedial and general education at the California State University. Due to these and other reforms within the systems, working across systems increasingly became an immediate and practical need for those seeking to improve student transitions from high school to postsecondary education. During BtG, the partners adapted to the reforms within their own systems and worked with those in the other systems to understand the impacts on their practices. Their efforts testify to the importance of, and challenges inherent in, working across systems to support students’ educational and career goals from high school to and through college.
The Long Beach initiative leveraged its decades-long education partnership between the City, the school district, Long Beach Community College (LBCC) and California State University Long Beach (CSULB) to improve the coherence of its cross-system approach to offering dual enrollment courses, pilot and implement new career exploration tools, and develop a data warehouse. The partnership prioritized dual enrollment as a key element of its college and career readiness strategy. LBCC increased dual enrollment opportunities in six-industry related pathways, and CSULB developed dual enrollment courses in Ethnic Studies and in mathematical thinking. Partners supported these efforts with coordinated messaging and outreach to students and parents, and professional development for faculty who teach dual enrollment courses. Most interviewees described this approach as a key strength of the Long Beach partnership.
The Salinas Valley BtG initiative faced a different set of imperatives given the region’s broad geographic footprint and the fact that the partnership is newer than Long Beach’s. Partners focused primarily on increasing the number of high school students who complete dual enrollment courses and the full “a-g” sequence of courses required for admission to the California State University and the University of California. The main challenges to increasing the number of dual enrollment courses included aligning schedules, meeting instructor qualifications, and funding. Further, Salinas Valley increased the number of high schools offering the full a-g sequence, encouraging more students to complete the sequence, ensuring that students and parents understand grade requirements for admission to a university, and aligning CTE and English as a Second Language programs with a-g requirements. The Salinas Valley BtG partners attributed their successes to being intentional and sequential in their approaches to change.
Drawing from the work of the two BtG teams, we identified five principles of practice that we hope support a better understanding of the range and depth of efforts needed to build effective student transitions and enduring pathways across disparate education systems. The principles are based on interviews and surveys with instructors, staff and administrators who participated in BtG as well as information gathered from BtG convenings.
BtG Principles of Practice
- Keep students, their educational goals, and related equity implications at the center.
- Share and use data to identify successes and barriers and to build engagement.
- Engage and support leaders at the top and in the middle.
- Work across institutions to improve connections and create coherence for students.
- Work within each institution to institutionalize and sustain the work.
Reports in the Series
Bridging the Gaps for Students in Long Beach: In 2016, a team of education leaders from the Long Beach College Promise joined Bridging the Gap to build and strengthen student transitions from high school to college. The partners sought to assess and improve the partnership’s dual enrollment programs spanning the three public institutions, pilot and implement new career exploration tools and programs, and develop a plan for a data warehouse to collect and share student information across the institutions.
In this brief, we draw from interviews with faculty, staff, administrators, and others who were engaged in the Long Beach team’s efforts to answer the following question: “How has a long-standing regional education partnership worked across systems to institutionalize efforts to increase college readiness for broad populations of students?”
Bridging the Gaps for Students in the Salinas Valley: A group of public education institutions throughout the Salinas Valley came together in 2016 to help more youth in the valley prepare for and succeed in college. In this brief, we draw from interviews with faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as with student focus groups, in order to answer the following question for those interested in strengthening or developing a cross-system education partnership in their communities: “How has a relatively young education partnership worked across systems to improve college readiness for broad populations of students?”
Bridging the Gaps through Cross-System Education Partnerships: Principles of Practice from Long Beach and the Salinas Valley: Long Beach and the Salinas Valley joined Bridging the Gap to smooth transitions for students from high school to postsecondary education. Due to policy reforms at the state and system levels, working across systems increasingly became an immediate and practical need for those seeking to improve student transitions from high school to postsecondary education.
This brief is intended for those interested in strengthening or developing a cross-system education partnership in their communities. It describes five learnings, or principles of, drawn from the work of the Long Beach and Salinas Valley teams.
Workbook to Assist Other Regional Education Partnerships
Reflection Questions Workbook: These reflection questions are intended to help educators as they seek to develop or strengthen their own regional cross-system partnerships. The questions are informed by research conducted with Bridging the Gap partners and are organized by the five principles outlined in the Principles report. The questions are meant to serve as a starting point for self-assessment of partnership goals, strategies, and challenges. Individual partnerships will likely have additional questions arise from this exercise.