CEL Research: Illuminating Equity in Education and Work

By: Kurt Burkum, Senior Director of Research, with support from Nycole Stawinoga

The last three months of 2017 saw ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning’s array of research activities grow in depth and breadth.  Some research activities focused on data disaggregation in education, others emphasized students who attend college and work simultaneously, some explored learning by working adults, while other newer endeavors concentrated on education-driven family social mobility or student housing and food scarcity.  All CEL research activities help us better understand and illuminate equity in education and work contexts and to develop insights for solving equity gaps.

Last year, we partnered with The Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education at UCLA to produce a report on data disaggregation in education and just recently we wrote a follow-up brief, Invisible Education Equity Gaps.  In it, we argue that when education data is disaggregated into more precise ethnic subgroups and categories we develop a more accurate map of the U.S. education landscape, unmask equity gaps, and put us in a better position to ensure we direct resources to those with the greatest needs.

Following our earlier release of two reports on working learners—Who Does Work Work For: Understanding Equity in Working Learner College and Career Success and Equity in Working and Learning Among U.S. Adults: Are There Differences in Opportunities, Supports, and Returns?—we authored two companion briefs:  Work, Learn, and EARN and Work, Learn, and EARN as an Adult.  The briefs helped to explore college students working and learning in college (insight:  working 15 hours or less each week can be helpful for students from low-income families trying to get through and get ahead in college) and learning opportunities for adults in the workforce (insight: while a postsecondary degree is often required for entry into work, it’s insufficient for continued progress and skill alignment over a person’s lifetime; workplace training and worker upskilling is needed for workers to achieve long term business success).  Additionally, we partnered with The Close It Summit to host a Twitter chat on working learners and Jim Larimore authored an op-ed in The Hill to share these and other insights from this research stream. Check out more on working learners on our website, here.

As we look ahead into 2018, our research will look at ways to better understand the effects of school counselors on college preparation, in part by collecting data in February from students on their experiences and perspectives in working with school counselors.  Additionally, we’ll expand our understanding of the relationships between student housing security, food scarcity, and student college readiness, while we finalize ACT’s participation in a partnership to study education-driven family social mobility.