News: College Access & Success

Harnessing the Power of NSC Data with The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

Wednesday, February 26, 2020  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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In February, NCAN released “The Data That Matter and the Plans That Work: New Districtwide Approaches to Student Success Beyond High School,” a collection of case studies about five school districts and partner organizations participating in the To & Through Advising Challenge. These organizations’ “big ideas” center on changing postsecondary advising by incorporating fit and match in college selection, improving FAFSA completion, reducing summer melt, and using postsecondary outcomes data to inform practice. This post focuses on The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, whose big idea is harnessing the power of National Student Clearinghouse data to create counselor resources and strategies for improving postsecondary fit and match for students.

Read the full report, additional case studies, and other resources derived from the project here. NCAN would like to thank all of the To & Through Advising Challenge participants and coaches who contributed their insight and time to making this publication possible. NCAN is grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their support of the To & Through Advising Challenge.

The Big Idea

Harness the power of National Student Clearinghouse data to create counselor resources and strategies for improving postsecondary fit and match for students.


The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) formed in 2007 as a collaboration between the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the city of Los Angeles, founding donors Richard and Melanie Lundquist, and other entities both public and private. PLAS manages “18 of the most historically underserved schools in LA Unified,” which enroll about 14,000 students annually. Among those are five high schools whose graduation rates have doubled since joining the Partnership. 

“When we got access to the NSC data, which we had never looked at before, we knew it had to get in front of everyone, not just middle schools and high schools but also elementary schools,” says Karlo Silbiger, coordinator of college-going culture at the Partnership. “We created very easy-to-read college success data sheets. Giving out huge datasets wasn’t going to work, but we wanted them to see how students from their school were doing.” The eye-opening value of using NSC data is on full display at the Partnership. First, the Partnership is giving stakeholders in schools a glimpse at students’ postsecondary outcomes, but beyond that a deeper dive is creating lists of colleges that will give students the best chance for success.

One of the Partnership’s key strategies is to develop a common definition for and criteria of best fit schools. To do this, they took the following steps:

  1. Combed through the literature to find criteria that best align with college completion for first-generation and low-income students of color.
  2. Met with partners and other college access organizations to hear about their criteria and systems.
  3. Used NSC data to compare Partnership graduation rates from schools considered “best fit” based on the proposed criteria versus those not considered “best fit” to test efficacy/validity.
  4. Created a graphic tool that counselors can use to help students see college success rates.
  5. Used research and feedback to create the draft criteria, which included two “best fit” lists as determined by the Partnership:
    1. Schools with average admitted student GPAs above 3.5 with a 75% (or better) minority graduation rate.
    2. A list of those schools with average admitted student GPAs under 3.5 with a 55% (or better) minority graduation rate.
  6. Updated each list of schools with the most recent available data for use during the 2019-20 academic year.
  7. Researched each school on the list to create individual data sheets to be shared with counselors, teachers, parents, and students interested in learning more about best fit schools.

“We’ve spent a year bringing data to every single staff member, teacher, school, and building,” says Silbiger. “That was to combat people’s preconceived notions; most people do not read data on college success. They were shocked. If we were going to really move the needle on college success, we were going to push four-year college as the important goal for our students because we knew they would be more likely to graduate. We have this mindset that we need to send students to schools where they’re most likely to graduate and get a degree.” This resource isn’t solely being put in front of counselors; it’s also being put in front of teachers and school leaders.

The Partnership is also putting the data in front of students and families. “College success data has been super helpful as we try to push our info to students and parents about institutions they’re thinking about attending. Again, that’s never been a part of the calculus. They’re asked to think about where the school is and the financial aid, but not the likelihood that they’re going to graduate. It has been an absolutely massive culture movement locally,” Silbiger noted.

Explore the full report to learn more about how other school districts and partner organizations are using big ideas and National Student Clearinghouse data to improve their students' postsecondary outcomes.