4 Keys for Improving Student Outcomes Using Data from StudentTracker
By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation, National College Attainment Network
The effective use of data can help all of us improve students’ outcomes. The National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker for High Schools’ service is an important tool in the toolkit for examining students’ actual postsecondary pathways.
Three times a year, the Clearinghouse sets “effective dates” where they have enough postsecondary enrollment data to generate new sets of reports. These reports are a collection of charts and spreadsheets that have both aggregated and student-level data.
The Clearinghouse recently announced that the StudentTracker for High Schools’ (STHS) “effective date” for the fall 2021 semester was Nov. 29. This means that subscribers to STHS received new postsecondary outcomes data for their students. This data is invaluable for understanding students’ postsecondary pathways and shaping postsecondary advising strategy.
Subscribers to STHS receive an email when their reports are available for them to download from their FTP accounts. Once that notification goes out, it’s important to read the email and share with any internal personnel or external partners who collaborate with you on college and career readiness activities.
Not sure where to start? Here are four keys to look for in the data:
- Class of 2021 first fall enrollment: This is the fall 2021 semester effective date, so naturally, most users will be interested in how their most recent graduating class fared. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the class of 2020 saw a nearly 7% drop in enrollment nationally. So, all eyes will be on the class of 2021, which had even more disruption last academic year, and whether these students will continue the enrollment declines. See the latest High School Benchmarks report for more details.
- Previous classes’ persistence patterns: We know that the past 20 months haven’t just been disruptive for the classes of 2020 and 2021, they’ve been disruptive for, well, pretty much all of us. Using the stacked bar charts showing year-by-year outcomes in the aggregate report, it would be interesting to look and see if students from previous classes had an uptick in stopping out or if they were able to persist in and/or complete a postsecondary pathway.
- Top 25 institutions: The StudentTracker report comes with a .csv file showing the top 25 institutions to which students matriculated. Many districts and schools have fairly set matriculation patterns, but it’s always good to look for surprises here. The next level of analysis is to use the “student detail file” to break out students’ outcomes by institution. Are the institutions to which students are matriculating delivering good outcomes? If not, it might be time to consider a conversation with the institution, a change in college advising, or both.
- Outcomes by student demographics: When submitting a “graduates file” with the names and birthdates of students from each graduating class, the Clearinghouse offers the option to include students’ demographic characteristics. When provided, the Clearinghouse then sends back a report disaggregating outcomes by those characteristics. This is important because all student groups may not be getting the same outcomes as a graduating class is overall. Having this data available highlights gaps that can be addressed through practice and programming. Not submitting student demographics? Include them in your next graduate file upload, and you’ll see these charts in the next release.
Interested in the above but not a StudentTracker subscriber? It’s not too late to sign up. Once subscribed, you’ll be sent a report based on the Nov. 29 effective date and then two more reports (mid-April, mid-August) in the next calendar year. The Clearinghouse offers a subscription service to K-12 districts and schools ($595 per high school per year) that matches high schools’ senior classes with their postsecondary enrollment and completion data.
If you have questions about using STHS data, contact the Clearinghouse for assistance.
“Postsecondary outcomes’ data is invaluable for understanding students’ postsecondary pathways and shaping postsecondary advising strategy.”
Director of Data and Evaluation, National College Attainment Network