Kallie Clark gained practical experience in learning how to help high school students get into college and was also inspired to learn more as she worked as a college counselor from 2009 to 2013 at the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago. As a college counselor, she gained a deep appreciation for the work of Melissa Roderick, the Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor at SSA. Roderick has done extensive work on the college performance outcomes of Chicago Public School graduates.
Clark’s admiration of Roderick’s work as well as her desire to better help high school students led her to SSA, where she first completed the Master’s program in 2015.
“As a college counselor, I became interested in how school systems impacted students’ abilities to succeed in college,” she says. “Most of the students I worked with were the first ones in their family to enter college and they did not necessarily have access to a lot of the information needed to navigate the college selection, application, and admissions process.
“I found that by sharing some of my most personal experiences as a first-generation college student I could help students feel more comfortable disclosing their own personal struggles on the road to college. When students hear that you are the first in your family to graduate from college, or that you are the only one of your siblings to graduate from high school it breaks down some of the barriers that can exist in the classroom.”
Clark grew up in northern California and received a BA in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. Her interest in art took her to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she completed her Masters in Fine Arts degree in 2008.
Her experiences as an artist and a social work researcher have shown how those diverse disciplines share strong relationships.
“Art and research are deeply intertwined. Artists and researchers are both trying to connect the dots between the data points to answer some fundamental question about the unknown. In this way, the results of a study are no less subjective than a constellation in the sky. What we see is reflective of our experiences, our beliefs, and our ability to see relationships that others can’t see. That is the art of research,” says Clark.
She entered SSA as a master’s student with an administrative concentration. Her first field placement was at Tilden High School in Chicago’s South Side where she worked as a college counselor. “Tilden had none of the resources that the charter school I had worked at did. It was an immense learning experience for me,” says Clark, who said the internship helped her better understand the typical workings of a Chicago public high school. Ellen Kennedy, AM ’99, was her fieldwork supervisor.
Her second field placement was with the Federation for Community Schools, where she was a data analyst and looked at academic gains for Chicago public schools that are organized with expanded services as community schools. All of those schools received the same level of funding and she found that the poorer schools needed more resources. Melissa Mitchell, Director of the Federation, was her fieldwork supervisor.
Clark co-authored a report with Mitchell for the Federation, “The Academic Impact of Community Schools: Connecting the Dots Between Educational Outcomes and Community Context.” Clark was also a research assistant for Roderick as a master’s student on the project “Disconnected Graduates,” which looked at the work and higher education outcomes of nearly 180,000 Chicago Public School graduates from the classes of 2003 to 2008.
“I will be frank,” Roderick says. “In my over 20 years of teaching at the University of Chicago, there have only been a handful of students who bring to doctoral study the combination of substantive grounding in practice, analytical ability, and just sheer commitment to the work that Kallie possesses.
She is absolutely passionate about her work and matches that passion with a depth of professional experience in doing college counseling and creating a college-going culture in a high school that serves predominantly racial and ethnic minority students from low income families.”
The “Disconnected Graduates” project was done at the University’s Consortium on Chicago School Research where Clark has been a research assistant for six other Consortium studies.
She co-authored a white paper with Elaine Allensworth, the Lewis-Sebring Director of the Consortium titled “Are Grades an Inconsistent Measure of Achievement Across High Schools? Examining Assumptions about Grades Versus Standardized Test Scores.”
She relied on her experiences with high school students and her research at SSA to produce a study guide, Decoding College: Stories, Strategies, and Struggles of First-Generation College Students, published in 2017.
Clark’s dissertation, Postsecondary Pathways in Chicago Public Schools, examined the connection between elementary school to high school feeder patterns and college performance.
“I want to look at patterns of inequality that may exist in the elementary school learning environment and examine whether those inequalities grow as students move through high school and eventually on to college. No one has really looked at this yet, and those connections could have an impact on students’ eventual college success,” she says.
Kallie Clark is currently a Senior Research Associate, Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University.
Story updated 11.6.20