NU, Evanston school district partnership presents findings on student performance


Daily file photo by Paul Goren

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 superintendent Paul Goren attends a meeting. Goren said Monday that the Northwestern-Evanston Education Research Alliance presents an exciting opportunity for education research in the city.

Wilson Chapman, Reporter

The Northwestern-Evanston Education Research Alliance has identified six main school-based factors that affect how students perform in college as part of a preliminary study and partnership with Evanston school districts.

The data — which focused on students who graduated from Evanston Township High School between 2012 and 2014 — found that even though 85 percent of graduates from those years attended college, their success after graduation varied based on a number of high school-dependent factors.

These predictive markers include the grades students receive in high school, whether a student has been held back, whether a student is young for their grade, standardized test scores and both course-taking and attendance patterns.

The project, a partnership between the school districts and NU’s School of Education and Social Policy, is led by SESP research data analyst lead Lila Goldstein.

“Our goals here with this research, we are looking for actionable, trackable factors, so things that the districts can really help students improve,” Goldstein said at a joint Evanston Township High School District 202 and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 meeting Monday.

NEERA was launched in September 2017 with the goal of identifying the factors that can predict success in college and creating concrete models to predict a student’s college readiness. NEERA representatives reported their findings Monday’s meeting.

Goldstein presented research findings that came as a result of several months of NEERA collecting data. The organization, she said, attempted to find markers in students’ lives that might predict college success.

“Doing great research and doing good are not mutually exclusive,” SESP Dean David Figlio said at the meeting. “One of the things that we really are feeling very strongly about is that we want to bring together our research mission, our teaching mission and our service mission in the service of our hometowns.”

He said he hopes the alliance’s findings will lead to further research that can help create ways to ensure students’ long-term success post-high school graduation.

Moving forward, Goldstein said the alliance is working to expand on this preliminary study and dig deeper into existing data for the classes of 2013 and 2014 while also conducting further research into other graduation cohorts to help identify other factors that may impact students’ performance in college.

Goldstein said in the future, NEERA hopes through its research and analysis, the group will be able to further break down data based on the specific types of colleges students attend.

District 65 superintendent Paul Goren said the initiative represents an exciting new opportunity for education research in Evanston. He said the alliance intends to continue emphasizing collaboration and expand its focus to additionally examining “problems of practice” and how to best serve school systems.

“This is such important and exciting work because it changes the narrative of what research about education should be about,” Goren said.

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