Education and Policy Research

Community College Civic Engagement Efforts and Outcomes

On multiple cooperative learning agreements with the Kettering Foundation, Dr. Kisker has designed and conducted research on civic engagement programs and practices at community colleges. The first report resulting from this project is titled Civic Engagement in Community Colleges: Mission, Institutionalization, and Future Prospects. That report can be accessed here.

After coordinating investigations into civic programs, practices, and outcomes at six community colleges across the country, Dr. Kisker and Dr. Bernie Ronan edited a New Directions for Community Colleges volume on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, which is available in print and online here

Working with colleagues from The Democracy Committment (, a national initiative providing a platform for the development and expansion of civic engagement in community colleges, Dr. Kisker developed and implemented a survey assessing students' civic agency, behavior, and knowledge after at least one year of college attendance. The survey was piloted at nine community colleges across the nation in spring 2015 and administered at additional colleges in 2016. Results of the 2015 pilot are described in an article in the Community College Review, available here. This project is funded by the Spencer Foundation.

The Complexity of Achievement and Opportunity at the California State Universities

Working with researchers at the California Community College Collaborative at UC Riverside, and in collaboration with the California State University Chancellor's Office, Dr. Kisker investigated the causes and contributors to achievement gaps at California's 23 state universities. The resulting policy report, titled What Does a Ten Percent Achievement Gap Mean? (And What Can We Do About It?) outlines the connection between achievement and opportunity in higher education; discusses possible ways of closing achievement gaps; and, for each of the 23 universities in the CSU system, analyzes the identity- and non-identity-based drivers of achievement gaps, as well as institutional programs and policies that might improve achievement and opportunity among various categories of low-performing students.

An abridged version of What Does a Ten Percent Achievement Gap Really Mean? (And What Can We Do About It?) can be accessed here


Implementing Statewide Transfer & Articulation Reform

Over the past few years, several states have engaged in systemic transfer and articulation reforms, implementing transfer associate degrees that allow students to both earn an associate degree and seamlessly transfer into a state university. In 2010, Dr. Kisker and the Center for the Study of Community Colleges visited four of these states (Arizona, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington) in order to examine the development of transfer associate degrees and to describe implementation strategies that may be utilized in states that are currently embarking on or planning for systemic transfer reforms. 

This project was generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, and was later turned into a New Directions for Community Colleges volume titled Implementing Transfer Associate Degrees: Perspectives From the States.

Full report
Executive summary

Reforming Transfer and Articulation in California

This project involved an in-depth, qualitative examination of the types of statewide reforms supported by members of California's inter-segmental Transfer Task Force, the perceived challenges to enacting these reforms, as well as possible ways of overcoming them. The study culminated in a report titled Reforming Transfer and Articulation in California: Four Statewide Solutions for Creating a More Successful and Seamless Transfer Path to the Baccalaureate. In this report Dr. Kisker and her colleagues recommended four top-priority statewide solutions for reforming California's transfer and articulation system so that it better serves all students: 1) associate degrees for transfer; 2) descriptor-based articulation; 3) a statewide online academic planning tool; and 4) shared messaging about transfer and financial aid.

This project was supported by grants from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, the California State University Chancellor's Office, and the University of California Office of the President.

Full Report
Executive Summary