REPORT: Diploma Matters: A Field Guide for College and Career Readiness


Diploma Matters coverDiploma Matters:  A Field Guide for College and Career Readiness (Jossey-Bass) is written for practitioners who believe fully that the K-12 experience should prepare all students equally well for the full array of opportunities that await them after high school.  Whatever they choose, high school graduates should be equipped with the knowledge and skills that will make them successful in both college and careers.

This field guide is intended to help state leaders, district superintendents, principals, and other site and district leaders gain a deep understanding of what it takes to ensure that students from all backgrounds have access to a rigorous course of study that leads to college and career readiness. It can also be a useful resource in the higher education arena as part of teacher preparation and administrator leadership programs. Readers will find a “toolkit” developed by The Education Trust-West.  The tools in the kit help school leaders and teachers examine the current high school experience (Educational Opportunity Audit), and then develop a detailed action plan (Blueprint) to transform curriculum so that their students are ready for college and work.


“After spending more than four decades in the educational field, I have read a multitude of books on transforming schools into places that work for all of the kids.  Many of those books have been good or excellent but none has had the power and punch of Diploma Matters by Dr. Linda Murray.  This is a book for practitioners who have seen it all.  Linda is able to capture in a straightforward way the nuts and bolts of how to do the work.  Linda, who was an extraordinary superintendent, proves to be a captivating storyteller.”

Peter J. Negroni, Senior Vice President at the College Board


“The San Jose, California, experience in raising academic expectations for all students at the high school level is a model for others to consider.  Under Linda Murray’s leadership, San Jose Unified instituted significant reforms in graduation requirements resulting in improved college readiness.  This is a story worth reading including the specific implications for districts nationwide.”

Michael W. Kirst, Emeritus Professor of Education and Business Administration, Stanford University, President, California State Board of Education, and author of Political Dynamics Of American Education




Accompanying resources for Diploma Matters, include:

  • The Study of Student Transcripts
  • Master Schedule Analysis
  • Surveys – Overview
  • Focus Groups
  • Community Conversations
  • Blueprint for Action


Linda_author 005Linda Murray is Superintendent-in-Residence at The Education Trust-West and is responsible for leading the practice work of the organization in California.  The work is around high school reform to ensure that all California graduates are college and work ready. Prior to joining ETW, Dr. Murray served as Superintendent of Schools for the San Jose Unified School District for eleven years.  In 1998, the district raised its graduation requirements to meet the UC/CSU entrance requirements, and since then the district has demonstrated major successes for poor students and students of color. 

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.