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Data: “The Language of Decision-Makers” to Make a Difference in Students’ Lives and Society

by NSC Blog | May 27, 2021 | Clearinghouse News, Postsecondary Data Partnership, Research Services |

Time to Act is Now to Address Inequality, Says Excelencia Co-Founder and CEO Deborah Santiago

Deborah Santiago HeadshotWhen Excelencia in Education Co-founder and CEO Deborah Santiago was working at the U.S. Department of Education, she saw a gap between the perception of minority students and the reality. She noticed that policy discussions did not reflect who the students were — their backgrounds, their communities, and the unique set of challenges they faced.

Santiago, a former Clearinghouse board member, said, “the numbers showed students were going to look more like me than those who were making the decisions. This really informed my thinking about the need to have a voice in public policy that could be explicit about who the students were.”

This served as a catalyst for Santiago to create Excelencia to help fight bias in the policymaking process and provide solid data on overlooked students. She believed data could help describe the lives and pathways of students and show the real impact of decisions made by those in power. Santiago says that data is “the language of decision-makers” and can help us make tough decisions about the future of our education system.

Santiago stresses that now is the time to act. “We need to pay attention and identify opportunities to better target and invest resources to make the work we do much more equitable than it has been historically.” While the pandemic is subsiding, she argues we cannot forget the important lesson learned about inequality in our country. “If we don’t take action based on that, then shame on us. We have to stop blaming students. We’ve got to take responsibility for that in policy and institutional leadership.”

Clearinghouse President and CEO Rick Torres has committed his career and the Clearinghouse to help institutions better understand the lives of students through data. He said, “The role of the Clearinghouse is to help institutions help policymakers who really care about these issues, to basically cut through the data that doesn’t matter and get to the data that does matter.”

To transform the way your institution measures and reports students’ success, the Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) empowers institutions with more comprehensive data, easier analysis, and better visual representations to help you understand, improve, and communicate student momentum, outcomes, and equity.


What Can You Do With the PDP?

  • Close Equity Gaps. The PDP’s early momentum indicators enable you to identify students who need help and the policies that are creating barriers to their success, so you can implement solutions.
  • Gain Access to Richer Insights. PDP insights are based on a comprehensive set of student data, including information left out of other data collections. The PDP’s data includes metrics on all new students who enter your institution at any time, not just full-time fall freshmen.
  • Tell Your Institution’s Story. PDP tools help you create visually compelling, easily understood reports that communicate trends and outcomes for your entire student body and specific populations within it.
  • Make Smarter Policy Decisions. The PDP gives you the information you need to achieve the greatest positive impact while optimizing your use of time and resources.
  • Benchmark Against Peer Institutions. The PDP enables you to compare your institution’s progress and outcomes with those of its peers to help you gauge your work’s success.

“We need to pay attention and identify opportunities to better target and invest resources to make the work we do much more equitable than it has been historically.”

Deborah Santiago
Excelencia in Education Co-founder and CEO


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