How School Districts in Iowa Turned StudentTracker Data into Action
Wood works at Cedar Falls High School, a public high school in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Cedar Falls has a relatively strong graduation rate (about 96 percent), and many of those students say they intend to go on to postsecondary education after high school. Yet Cedar Falls administrators discovered a disheartening reality after reviewing StudentTracker for High Schools data: although 86 percent of the school’s graduates intended to pursue a college degree after high school, only about half of them completed a college degree.
The Clearinghouse data also revealed a significant gap between student intentions in May and enrollment percentages in August. This unusually high degree of “summer melt” signaled that some Cedar Falls students were encountering roadblocks as they attempted to start college.
This trend mirrored what Ford was seeing in the Eastern Iowa region that his agency served. The next step for Wood and Ford was to identify patterns in each of their student cohorts that might explain what was happening. The team found that a particular subgroup had a very high “summer melt” percentage: students intending to attend a two-year college who were required to take a developmental math course. Developmental courses are a significant barrier for students because they cost money, but they don’t result in any credits toward a degree.
Wood and the Cedar Falls school counseling department led the development and implementation of a pilot program at Cedar Falls designed to address this issue. In collaboration with local community colleges, Cedar Falls brought the developmental math curriculum in house. It created a developmental math pilot – a math literacy course developed by the community college teaching staff in collaboration with the high school’s math department.
Ford facilitated two similar pilots at three high schools in his region, helping school administrators collect data, analyze outcomes, and engage with community college administrations to create specific programs.
After instituting this course, Ford’s pilot schools nearly doubled the number of students who met the required college readiness benchmark for college-level algebra. An even greater number of students cleared the developmental math hurdle, placing into a nondevelopmental math course at the two-year college level. Out of the 15 students at Cedar Falls, 14 gained at least one developmental level, and 7 placed into a credit-bearing course at the college level.
The pilot programs the Cedar Falls school counseling department and Ford led helped to implement in their respective areas are a testament to the power of collaboration between high schools and local postsecondary institutions. It also shows how effective it can be to combine Clearinghouse data with available data from your state, school district, or school. Integrating data from multiple sources helps reveal the story behind the numbers, allowing schools to take real action and affect student futures.
What information does your state collect, and how can that sharpen the outcomes the Clearinghouse data reveals so that your team can take action?
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