Design, Sites, and Data Sources
This study will use descriptive analyses of quantitative data as well as qualitative data collection and synthesis. Student-level data will be collected from the California Department of Education and the California State University system. The Common Core of Data (CCD), a publicly available dataset, will be used to provide school-level characteristics, such as urbanicity and school size. Interviews and focus groups will be conducted with stakeholders across the state. The following describes each research question in more detail and the methods to be used to answer each question.
Research Question #1: How might the proposed admissions policy change affect all California high school students’ access to a CSU, and how might this effect differ for underrepresented groups of students, including students of color and low-income students?
To answer this question, the study team will examine the high school transcript data of all 2019 and 2020 public high school graduates across California and identify the percentage of students who met A-G requirements but did not complete an additional quantitative reasoning course. The study team will compare the percentages of students not completing an additional course across groups of students identified by race and ethnicity, family income level, parent education level, English language learner status, gender, geographic location, and other key indicators. The study team will also explore some of the reasons students did not meet the proposed additional requirement. For instance, the study team will look at how many of the students not meeting the proposed requirement never took an additional quantitative reasoning course or took but did not pass an additional course.
Given the CSU system’s long-term goal of building equity in college access for underrepresented groups of students, the study will also explore the percentages of students in underrepresented groups who did not meet the current A-G requirements, how many of these students were lacking the completion of a math or science course, and how many did not take a needed course versus how many took but did not pass a course.
Research Question #2: How might the proposed admissions policy change influence students’ success at a CSU, and how might this differ for underrepresented groups of students, including students of color and low-income students?
This set of analyses will seek to determine whether, or to what extent, an additional quantitative reasoning course might support students’ success at a CSU. To answer this question, the study team will use high school and CSU transcript data for current and past students enrolled at a CSU. Specifically, the study will look at how students who only met the current A-G requirements compare with students who also completed an additional quantitative reasoning class in relation to their success in their first college-level math course, persistence in college, accumulation of college credits, college degree attainment, and degree attainment in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The study team will explore this question by race and ethnicity, family income level, parent education level, English language learner status, gender, geographic location, and other key indicators.
Research Question #3: Do high schools and districts currently have the capacity to offer courses that meet the proposed admissions policy change and what are the attributes (income level, racial and ethnic background, and urbanicity) of the schools that do not currently offer courses that meet the proposed requirements?
Answering this question will help to identify if there any gaps in the current capacity of high schools to provide the needed quantitative reasoning courses. The study team will first look at current A-G course offerings by school to identify how many schools do not currently offer enough quantitative reasoning courses for students to successfully complete the proposed requirement. To better understand enrollment capacity, the study team will use high school transcript data to assess the percentage of juniors and seniors at each school that are currently taking quantitative reasoning courses that would meet the new requirement. The study team will then explore the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic makeup of the schools with the lowest current capacity to provide quantitative reasoning courses to their students. This will provide information about which groups of students may be most affected due to their school or district capacity.
Research Question #4: What would need to be in place for this proposed change to be successful and equitable across schools and districts?
This final research question will help to contextualize the findings and look forward to solutions to any barriers identified. The study team will interview a set of stakeholders across the state to collect information on the issues likely to arise if this proposed change is implemented and how those issues could be remedied. The study team will collect information on the resources schools, districts, and students would need for the policy change to be implemented in a way that will support equity in CSU access for underrepresented students. The study team will conduct interviews with district administrators, principals, teachers, and counselors; CSU enrollment managers; and state leaders. The study team will also convene focus groups with underrepresented students and family members. In identifying localities for the qualitative research, the study team will focus on high schools the CSU has identified as most in need of support to successfully implement the proposed policy change. The study team will work to ensure representation across (1) most regions of the state; (2) a variety of urban, exurban, and rural communities; and (3) communities with large percentages of students of color and low-income families.