Disrupting Inequalities Along the Path to College and Career: A Partnership between Metro Nashville Public Schools and Vanderbilt University

This grant will strengthen the Nashville Partnership for Educational Equity Research, a partnership between Vanderbilt University and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, in understanding and addressing disparities in early postsecondary opportunities.

Early postsecondary opportunities, i.e., high school courses that provide exposure to postsecondary coursework and build foundational career skills, are a key lever for increasing postsecondary enrollment and completion. With this grant, Nashville Partnership for Educational Equity Research (PEER) will leverage research to reduce disparities in early post-secondary course participation for Black and Hispanic youth, English learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families to improve college and career readiness. The team will use administrative data to: 1) provide baseline estimates of which early postsecondary opportunities improve outcomes for groups of students across district schools, and 2) document gaps in participation and success by student characteristics, type of opportunity, and schools (within and between). Results will provide baseline data on potential sources of inequalities for further exploration. The partners will then use quantitative data to examine student- and school-level factors that predict course access, course-taking patterns, and success. They will also conduct interviews and focus groups with staff and students to examine how schools make decisions about which early postsecondary opportunities to offer and how students perceive and come to enroll in them. Finally, the partners will support three schools in using evidence from these findings to design new practices or policies that will increase participation in early post-secondary opportunities and reduce inequalities. Vanderbilt has provided seed funding for PEER, covered initial personnel costs and core operating expenses for three years, and hired two new senior faculty with extensive partnership experience. To capitalize on these early investments, Vanderbilt will review and expand tenure and promotion guidelines to reflect the value of partnership research, develop and maintain a repository of exemplars of partnership research to increase its visibility, deepen faculty learning about partnership work and spark collaborative efforts, and create new course offerings on community engaged research.

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