Friday, July 17, 2009

What Are National Organizations Doing to Promote Analytics? (1)

Guest Blogger – Dr. Linda Baer, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).

While greater proportions of the U.S population are being educated, overall college/university graduation rates have remained relatively unchanged for decades. We know more about learning than ever before, yet all the research has not brought about wholesale changes in advising, educating and servicing students. Success rates for underserved populations have lagged. This has resulted in major and continuing efforts to analyze the “achievement gap.” Data banks and warehouses have reached a progressively higher levels of sophistication and technology solutions have been developed that bring together the massive data sets with statistical techniques and predictive modeling. The result is that higher education can now better customize and thereby maximize student success.

Campus Enrollment Management

Examples of campus use for enrollment management have been well documented. The use of data to improve likelihood of admissions is the next step. Examples of predictive modeling and student retention uses fundamental data as GPA, English course and grade, race, math course grade, total hours earned and ACT score to determine best practices in retention programming. Campuses have developed early alert systems to further enhance student retention. These include placement in developmental course, income below the federal poverty level, full-time work, and undecided major as measures to monitor. Another example is the use of course management systems to identify and monitor students at risk so that interventions can be in place early to enhance retention and success. See Academic Analytics: A New Tool for a New Era in EDUCAUSE Review.

Colleges and universities have implemented analytics to improve enrollment management particularly in relation to recruitment and admissions. Colleges and universities use test scores, GPA, class rank and many qualitative measures when making decisions about admission to campuses. The predictive nature of these measures is a part of many enrollment management strategies.

ACT maintains a high level of reliability around the ACT scores, student course taking in high school and college success. ACT has established a predictive modeling template that determines enrollment probabilities and indexes as well. The indexes provide a probability that a student will show a specific enrollment behavior. These include:

• The mobility index which indicates the likelihood that a student will enroll at an out-of-state institution.

• The institution type index predicts the likelihood that a student will enroll at a private institution.

• The selectivity index predicts the selectivity of the institution at which the student is likely to enroll.

Variables included that are most predictive in each model include ACT Composite, High School, GPA, Years of foreign Language, program of study in HS, years of math coursework, and highest degree expected. See ACT website.

National Attention on Community Colleges

The Lumina Foundation initiated the “Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count” which is a multiyear program that focuses on helping more community college students succeed by earning degrees, certificates, and transfer to other institutions.

The key to the initiative is to use data to drive change. In the Achieving the Dream model, every decision made at a college – from setting educational strategies and allocating resources to scheduling classes and organizing student services – is grounded in data about student outcomes. Central to this work is setting measurable goals that consider outcomes of all students; and making lasting, institutional change to achieve them. Because there are disparities in student outcomes at community colleges, all work is disaggregated by race, age and other demographic characteristics—to better understand the performance gap.

Key strategies for improving the chances of college completion include:

• Successful completion of developmental education.

• Instructional techniques, such as collaborative learning, paired classes and learning communities.

• Student success courses which teach critical skills such as time management and study skills.

• Advising services to help students set and meet goals.

• Improving outcomes for gatekeeper courses such as introductory college level algebra and English.

For more on Achieving the Dream, see

Information about these elements have been available but not in a coordinated manner and not readily available to multiple users. With faculty and advisors gaining access to the information often in a dashboard format, it is possible to better understand student success and risk. Faculty can identify programs that can affect student completion and persistence.

Campus leaders believe that they will soon be able to match technologies with data resources to bring about the capacity to predict which students need interventions in a timely manner to provide the programs to help students succeed. This will allow colleges to follow the progress of students including need for developmental work, tutoring, and progress in courses, withdrawal patterns and completion rates. Currently these programs basically track students. The next step is to build proactive intervention tools customizable to each student.

National System Heads Call for Halving the Achievement Gap

The National Association of System Heads has developed an initiative called Access to Success. The Lumina Foundation and the Education Trust have joined with the National Association of System Heads to work to cut in half the achievement gap between majority and minority students. A call to focus on the need to reclaim America’s global competitiveness motivated system heads to launch a new national initiative to increase the number of college-educated Americans and to ensure that graduates include far more young people from low-income and minority families. These educational system leaders are aggressively pursuing improvements in student outcomes by closing the achievement gap by at least half in both college-going and degree completion that separate low income and minority students from others.

Several areas have received immediate cross system attention including:

• Increasing student success in remedial and other large enrollment, introductory courses

• Managing costs and investing in student success

• Improving preparation among entering students; and,

• Maximizing financial aid for low-income students

Tomorrow: The Pathway Chart of the National Association of System Heads (NASH)

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