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Early College Outcomes Research and Evaluation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands


This REL Pacific coaching project is intended to help the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) develop the capacity to evaluate initiatives to determine whether they are effectively improving student outcomes. CMI also hopes to develop the research capacity to identify other ways that they might improve early college outcomes and increase graduation rates.

High-Leverage Need

Education leaders at the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) have expressed concerns about their reliance on outside researchers and a lack of internal capacity to conduct research or to make research-informed decisions effectively. Stakeholders have expressed a desire to increase their knowledge and capacity to design and implement data-driven program evaluations in order to effectively engage in research-based system improvement. Data-driven program evaluations can provide a snapshot of the strengths and weaknesses of a given program, which enables education institutions to continuously improve practice and ultimately increase the probability of improving student outcomes.

Underfunded education institutions often rely on outside consultants to conduct program evaluations and system improvement research. This reliance on outside researchers is detrimental to the core function of an education institution, which includes full participation in ongoing improvement cycles, including research and evaluation (Catelli, Padovano, & Costello, 2000). Further, this approach may leave stakeholders in these institutions with a limited knowledge of effective programs and practices and limited agency to make appropriate decisions concerning their own students and organizations. Additionally, when research is not conducted internally, there may not be structures in place to implement or fully leverage results from outside evidence-based research. Because of this, institutions may not be able to appropriately address the high-leverage need to continuously improve practice in the service of improved student outcomes.

CMI is currently implementing multiple initiatives to improve students' transition to college and their early college outcomes. Examples of these initiatives include developing a high school transition course with the RMI Ministry of Education and implementing a multiple-measures placement system for math and English courses for first-year students.

Possible Future Actions Informed by the Research Study

The goal of this coaching project is to support teams of researchers at CMI in applying appropriate research, data collection, and data analysis methods to aid in data-driven program evaluations of initiatives designed to smooth the transition between high school and college and improve early college outcomes. The coaching project is expected to enhance the capacity of education stakeholders at CMI to effectively carry out their own research projects, understand the implications of their own data, and engage in meaningful conversations about the implications of their own research evidence. Ultimately, this coaching project is intended to increase the ability of CMI to meet the institutional goal of converting research results into policy and practice changes.


Bradley Rentz

Dr. Bradley Rentz, a researcher with REL Pacific at McREL International, supports technical assistance and applied research projects. Dr. Rentz's experience prior to joining McREL includes conducting both quantitative and qualitative research in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Hawai'i. For his doctoral research, Dr. Rentz conducted mixed method survey analyses to study language attitudes in Pohnpei State in the FSM. He has also conducted a variety of other quantitative linguistic research projects in the FSM. In addition, Dr. Rentz spent two years as a middle school teacher on Pohnpei. Contact Brad at or call 1.808.664.8184.


Catelli, L. A., Padovano, K., & Costello, J. (2000). Action research in the context of a school-university partnership: its value, problems, issues and benefits. Education Action Research, 8(2), 225–242.