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IES Grant

Title: Closing the Opportunity and Achievement Gaps in College and Career Readiness for Nevada Students
Center: NCER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Mihaly, Kata Awardee: RAND Corporation
Program: Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Education Policymaking      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2023 – 06/30/2026) Award Amount: $999,948
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305S230005

Co-Principal Investigator: Zutz, Peter

Partner Institutions: Nevada Department of Education

Purpose: This project will examine the opportunity gaps that Nevada's Hispanic and English learner (EL) students face in reaching college and career readiness. EL and Hispanic students in the United States and Nevada have more limited access to advanced courses, lower levels of academic achievement, and lower high school graduation rates than their peers. They are also less likely to earn a college degree and often face constraints in accessing K–12 school resources (e.g., dollars per student spent on staff, instructional materials, and services to support ELs) and postsecondary education. This study will describe gaps in the educational experiences and attainment of Nevada student groups; examine how malleable factors including school resources, access to high school courses that foster CCR, and skills credentialing are related to these gaps; and study whether specific programs implemented in the state can improve equity in high school experiences and college readiness in Nevada.

To support decision–making, the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) is partnering with RAND to examine recent policies related to each of four malleable factors:

  1. providing direct assistance to students to pay for dual enrollment and advanced placement courses (school resources)
  2. adding paraprofessionals to career technical education (CTE) courses (school resources)
  3. reducing the length of the CTE certification pathway (increase access)
  4. granting seals and endorsements on high school diplomas (skills credentialing)

The research team will examine the potential for these programs to reduce gaps in high school achievement, college and career readiness, as well as postsecondary and workforce outcomes.

Project Activities: The research team will use Nevada's state longitudinal data system (Nevada P–20 to Workforce Research Data System, or NPWR) to study students in public high schools between 2010 and 2025 and describe gaps in college and career readiness and related high school and postsecondary outcomes. The team will use multivariate regression models and Oaxaca decomposition methods to examine how malleable factors relate to the observed gaps. Then, the team will use descriptive analyses and propensity score weights to examine how student outcomes and achievement gaps vary with exposure to the four focal state policies. Finally, the team will study the implementation of these programs to inform future modifications or expansion.

Products: The research team will produce research reports, briefs, and journal articles. They will also present findings to Nevada stakeholders, including the Nevada State Board of Education and the Nevada State Legislature to inform state decision-making. The team will further disseminate findings to practitioners and researchers at local and national conferences and to EL/Hispanic organizations such as the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The setting for this study is Nevada. The team will focus on student experiences across the state in high school and postsecondary education between 2010 and 2025.

Sample: The primary sample consists of approximately 500,000 students in grades 9 to 12 in Nevada's public high schools between 2010 and 2025. For analyses that follow students across all 4 years of high school, the researchers will focus on students in the 2013 to 2025 high school classes. For analyses examining postsecondary and workforce outcomes, the last cohort of high schoolers will be those projected to complete high school in 2024. The research will focus on Hispanic and EL students who make up approximately 40 percent and 15 percent of Nevada students, respectively. The team will also study students who are both EL and Hispanic, and other subgroups, such as the intersection of EL/Hispanic indicator and achievement proficiency, socioeconomic status, special education status, and other demographic characteristics.

Key Issue, Program, or Policy: This project will focus on measuring achievement gaps, malleable factors, and state policies related to the following key issues:

  1. EL and Hispanic students have historically been more likely to attend schools with insufficient resources to meet the needs of the student population
  2. EL and Hispanic students face many unique barriers to CCR including challenges in accessing and paying for advanced courses
  3. Skill credentialing is growing in popularity as a way to promote CCR, but there is little evidence on its importance for student outcomes.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct descriptive analyses using the Nevada P–20 to Workforce Research Data System (NPWR) data on students and educators. They will use multivariate regressions to measure gaps in key outcomes between EL and Hispanic students and their counterparts and examine how gaps change when controlling for student and school characteristics. The research team will also use multivariate regression models to examine how malleable factors, including school resources, access to high school courses, and skills credentialing, relate to the achievement and opportunity gaps, accounting for the nesting of students in schools, where appropriate. In addition, they will use Oaxaca decomposition methods to measure how these malleable factors contribute to the gaps, and they will evaluate the impact of state programs using multivariate regressions and propensity score weighting. They will conduct interviews and focus groups to examine how and to what extent do Nevada educators enact college and career readiness programs that benefit these populations.

Comparison Condition: The research team will compare outcomes between ELs and non-ELs as well as between Hispanic students and students from other racial/ethnic backgrounds to measure achievement and opportunity gaps. They will also compare outcomes for treated students to students in a weighted comparison group to evaluate the four state programs. For these evaluations, the team will also compare Hispanic and EL students across the treatment and comparison groups.

Key Measures: Student outcomes are college and career readiness, including ACT scores, participation in and completion of advanced courses (dual enrollment and advanced placement), CTE participation and completion, high school graduation, distinctions on high school diplomas (including seals of biliteracy, CCR distinction, and CTE concentrator), college enrollment, college persistence, wages and employment. The team will measure EL status using EL status in the year of analysis and an indicator for ever being classified as an EL.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use Stata software to clean raw data, create analytic files, and test the statistical significance of differences in their outcomes using multivariate regressions, t-tests, Hausman tests, and likelihood ratio tests. They will use the Dedoose software for coding of common themes in the qualitative data analysis.

State Decision Making: The project will allow Nevada to use the NPWR data for the first time to understand the extent of opportunity and achievement gaps for EL and Hispanic students. The impact and implementation findings from the analysis of four focal programs will guide Nevada's decisions about where to target resources and how to expand or modify existing programs to reduce gaps in college and career readiness of EL and Hispanic students

Related IES Projects: SLDS grants to Nevada —Nevada Longitudinal Data System (R372A070010), Nevada 2012 SLDS Linking P-20W (R372A120020), Nevada SLDS Infrastructure Improvements (R372A200020)