Graduate Degree: Harvard Graduate School of Education
Undergraduate Degree: Tufts University
Area of Interest: Education Issues
Mentors: Joan Wallace Benjamin, The Home for Little Wanderers and Tessa Bridge, The King Open School
Agency: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Supervisor: Carrie Conaway, Associate Commissioner, Office of Planning and Research
Project Description: Tolani explored whether the expressed preferences for college enrollment in eighth grade change by tenth grade, after a student has taken high school courses, and how well the preferences revealed in eighth and tenth grade are realized by students after graduating from high school. She used state level data from Massachusetts, which allowed her to explore aspirations in junior high school and senior high school and their links to actual college enrollment. Understanding how student’s educational expectations change during high school is a pressing question, given that much of high school reform seeks to better prepare students for college enrollment (Carnoy, Elmore, & Siskin, 2013). Using a first difference strategy, she found that students who plan to attend a four year college are more likely to enroll in college and attend a four year institution than their peers who did not plan to attend a four year institution. Students who plan to attend a two year college in both eighth and tenth grade are less likely to enroll in any type of college. In terms of demographic differences, both Black and Latino students are less likely than their White peers to have college enrollment outcomes that mirror their expressed preferences, even when we control for academic preparation.
Regarding the fellowship, Tolani said
"As a Rappaport Fellow, I was able to employ my quantitative research skills to answer relevant policy questions. I worked with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to explore what students planned to do after high school graduation and compare this with actual outcomes. I learned a great deal about how to move from research to policy recommendations. Further, I now have a much better understanding of the information that policymakers want and how to present scholarly research to a diverse group of stakeholders, in order to aid in the production of policy that improves the outcomes of our students."