How Helios Education Foundation Uses StudentTracker® to Inform Its Work to Create Opportunities for Postsecondary Success in Arizona
Guest blog by Dr. Paul G. Perrault, Vice President of Research and Evaluation, Helios Education Foundation
In the United States, there is a growing demand for a more educated workforce. According to a report from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Center on Education and the Workforce, 65 percent of all jobs in the U.S. economy will require some postsecondary education beyond high school. Through its research, grant making and policy work, Helios Education Foundation has sought to improve access to postsecondary institutions and overall attainment by integrating data-driven problem solving into the corpus of its work.
One effort that exemplifies these principles is Helios’ College Knowing & Going Initiative. Created initially as a way for districts to examine the extent to which their students were college and career ready, the initiative established a set of interventions aimed at providing increased support for postsecondary access. Currently the initiative includes ACT testing at no cost to students in 18 Arizona school districts, along with intermediary supports for FAFSA completion, postsecondary application assistance, and training for counselors and other community members to access data. Overall, roughly 40 percent of the state’s public-school juniors and seniors are covered under this initiative.
Seeking to gain a better understanding in how the program was having impact, the Helios’ Research and Evaluation team looked to the National Student Clearinghouse to measure student enrollment in college, as well as their persistence, and completion rates. Early analysis focused on access, showing clear trends in who went to college and where they were going (see: Examining College Readiness, Aspirations and Matriculation in Arizona School Districts). At the same time, the data showed that a large proportion of students with high aspirations to go to college did not actualize those goals in either the first or second year after high school. As a result, Helios is using this information to strengthening its intervention supports and create new opportunities to use the data to drive decision making.
Looking ahead to the future, Helios will continue to use the Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker® service, expanding the analysis to monitor persistence as well as postsecondary completion. This will allow the Foundation to make decisions on the continuation of funding. It will also allow the Foundation to use the learnings from this grant to inform its future endeavors. Finally, by using StudentTracker, Helios can show its Board and partners the extent to which this initiative is impacting students in Arizona.
“Our ultimate goal is to increase the number of students in Arizona who complete a postsecondary education,” said Julie Norwood, Director of Program Services for Helios Education Foundation. “StudentTracker is a critical tool in helping us measure success and impact.”
Whether your organization involves high schools, colleges and universities, or education outreach programs, the Clearinghouse can help you accomplish your initiatives. As the only source for nationwide student outcomes information, StudentTracker provides you with the reliable data you need to gain a better understanding of the students you serve.
 Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N., & Strohl, J. (2013). Recovery: projections of jobs and education requirements through 2020. Washington DC.
“Our ultimate goal is to increase the number of students in Arizona who complete a postsecondary education. StudentTracker is a critical tool in helping us measure success and impact.”
Director of Program Services for Helios Education Foundation.