The Power of Partnerships: Supporting Districts in Postsecondary Success

As elevated in our recent report and tipsheet series, school districts across the country are beginning to be more proactive in supporting K-12 students to achieve postsecondary success.

But what happens if districts don’t have capacity to develop a strategic vision and then actually offer college advising support? In these cases, we’ve identified concrete roles that funders and college access organizations can play. With the support of these external partners, districts can accelerate their progress towards supporting all students on their paths to postsecondary success. Cover of "Equitable Postsecondary Advising Systems Expanding access to help close the degree divide" tip sheet for districts, by Bellwether Education Partners June 2020

KIPP*, a high-performing national charter network, has always supported its students on their journey to college. In 2008, KIPP launched “KIPP Through College” to provide more structured and intensive support for students to increase the likelihood of postsecondary success. The model helps students to decide what colleges are the best fit for them using a user-friendly online match tool that leverages data and logic to build a list of colleges and universities for a student to apply to. In addition, KIPP has defined a set of milestones to track and measure success (e.g., FAFSA completion). As a result: in 2018, 80% of KIPP graduates enrolled in college, compared to the national average of 66% and the low-income student average of 46%. 

Recognizing that KIPP had a successful approach, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation* provided a grant for KIPP to adapt their model for three urban districts who were eager to prioritize college advising: Miami-Dade County Public Schools, New York City Department of Education, and Newark Unified School District. 

KIPP helped the three districts set a vision with milestones, customized their “match and fit” framework and online tool, and conducted in-person training and virtual coaching to support implementation. Early results are promising, and uptake has been strong: all three districts adopted KIPP’s approach after the 18-month program. KIPP is expanding the program to 13 additional schools in New York and 9 additional schools in Miami, as well as offering a summer training for staff using KIPP’s approach.

We profiled KIPP, and other organizations, districts, and intermediaries doing great work to support students on their postsecondary journeys, in our recent study on the postsecondary support landscape. Read it here.

*Former client/funder of Bellwether. We maintained full editorial control of this post.