Innovation at work

How USC Rossier is improving student access and learning outcomes with results-oriented solutions

The USC Rossier School of Education is a school of problem solvers. Faculty and students work to identify challenges in urban education and seek innovative solutions outside traditional structures and cultures to improve learning. In an academic environment committed to the combination of research and practice, ideas take root and bloom that are making a difference for students in our communities.


Personalized learning model closes the college completion gap

Students from high-income families are eight times more likely to complete college than their peers from low-income families. USC Hybrid High, a school founded by USC Rossier in 2012, is closing this gap with a model emphasizing college preparation, personalized instruction and Positive Multigenerational Change.

The focus on personalized learning is informed by the belief that any student can excel when they receive one-on-one instruction. Managed by Ednovate Inc., Hybrid High strives to provide each student exactly what they need—how and when they need it—through a combination of high-quality instruction and technology that prepares them to attend and succeed in college. All students complete quarterly projects with real-world applications and a senior thesis answering the question: “How do you plan to use your college degree and career to make a Positive Multigenerational Change?” By the time they graduate, students will view themselves as positive change agents with a deeper purpose for college and career.

Hybrid High strives to ensure that 100 percent of students will be accepted into a selective four-year university, and this commitment to students extends beyond graduation. Through a curriculum built to foster the qualities that students will need to succeed in college—and with additional support of an alumni coordinator—the school also strives to ensure that at least 90 percent of graduates persist in college beyond their freshman year. In June 2016, all 84 students from the inaugural class graduated on time, and each received at least one acceptance to a selective four-year college or university.

View a video about Hybrid High’s first graduation>


Photo by Ana Beatriz Cholo

Near peer mentors fill the need for more high school advisers

Too many California students lack adequate access to guidance and do not have friends or family members who have navigated the college process. California averages 945 students for each school counselor, ranking it last in the nation. The Southern California College Advising Corps (SCCAC), a program managed by USC Rossier’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice, is improving the odds for thousands of high school students who are now benefitting from the mentorship of “near peer” advisers like USC Rossier Master of Education in Educational Counseling (EC) student Lila Mendoza, who helps high school students with applications, essays, financial aid, ACT/SAT test registration and preparation, A-G completion, college visits and enrollment. Research has shown that students served by SCCAC are 42% more likely to apply to college, 67% more likely to be accepted and 62% more like to file a financial aid (FAFSA) form.


Online game helps high school students navigate college applications

High school students from poor and working-class backgrounds often run the risk of not applying to college, even when they have been high academic achievers. USC Rossier’s Pullias Center for Higher Education has created “Mission: Admission,” an online game that leverages play to help high school juniors and seniors navigate the complicated college application process. In the game, students guide their avatars through the process of meeting with college advisers, choosing the types of schools to apply to (including four-year, community and technical colleges), scheduling community service and sports activities, applying for scholarships and financial aid and requesting recommendation letters. Designers sought to make both the college application and financial aid process more accessible, inspiring and fun. Research is showing that the game is positively affecting students’ college-going efficacy and college knowledge. The project was among the select few to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s First in The World Program.


Speedometry game makes math and science more fun

Elementary teachers often struggle to find engaging, hands-on lessons that help reinforce STEM learning. To address this challenge, Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) faculty Fred Freking and Angela Laila Hasan, along with Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education Policy (PhD) faculty Julie Marsh, Morgan Polikoff and Gale Sinatra, formed a five-member USC Rossier team with expertise in K-12 education and science and math standards. Together they collaborated with teachers to design Speedometry, a two-week curriculum for fourth graders that uses Hot Wheels cars and tracks to teach basic STEM principles such as potential and kinetic energy. The curriculum provides teachers with a new instructional tool that emphasizes hands-on investigation and active engagement in scientific practices.

Fully 95 percent of all teachers reported that student learning of science content moderately or greatly improved as a result of Speedometry, while 79 percent reported student learning of mathematics content moderately or greatly improved. Students who experienced Speedometry showed greater interest and positive emotions about the lessons compared to control group students’ interest and positive emotions about their traditional science or math lessons. These findings were true for students across demographic groups, including girls and boys, English language learners and students eligible for special education. And implementing Speedometry was associated with increases in teachers’ confidence to teach science inquiry skills.


Learn more about the academic programs at USC Rossier >