Report: Data is Key to Student Outcome

A new report by Complete College America (CCA), a national non-profit educational organization, is offering recommendations to help colleges build and sustain unified data systems to measure, compare, and improve student outcomes.

The report – entitled Using a Measurement System to Strengthen Student Success Reforms – provides step-by-step guidance and tools to help colleges build internal data teams and create national and homegrown measurement systems to increase student success.

The report includes specific recommendations for how colleges can identify key performance indicators of student success, and source data – and use the National Student Clearinghouse’s Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) to track student outcomes.

The report also outlines four essentials to a strong measurement system – measuring what matters, sourcing the data needed, using the PDP, and having regular conversations about data.

“Colleges today are awash in data about the student experience and outcomes, but merely collecting and analyzing data on student success isn’t enough. Ultimately, it’s about building and sustaining a culture of data and measurement,” CCA President Dr. Yolanda Watson-Spiva, said in a statement.

The report and its accompanying tools provide a framework for college leadership, faculty, staff, and policymakers to collect, share, and act on data to improve student outcomes and boost completion.

“This report lays out practical tools and guidance for states and institutions to develop measurement systems that will help them identify areas for improvement and take collective action to support student success,” Watson-Spiva said.

The report comes at a time when enrollment and retention challenges continue to plague higher education institutions. It draws on CCA’s efforts to implement and scale data-informed student success practices over the past decade across its alliance of states, systems, and organizations aligned working to improve college completion in the United States.

According to CCA, the report and accompanying resources are relevant to college systems and state agencies depending on the state’s setup, and anyone in higher education who wants to use data to drive their decision-making can benefit from using them.

In addition, CCA explained that the ideal use of the report is for a college team – led by a senior administrator – to review and complete the tools, which should include faculty members, advisers and other staff members, students, and institutional research staff.

“Creating a strong measurement system can be a daunting task,” said Charles Ansell, CCA’s vice president of Research, Policy, and Advocacy. “Building a student success data team is like building any successful roster. You need the right mix of talent, coaching, and strategy. This report provides the blueprint, breaking down the process into manageable steps and providing the tools and guidance needed to create a winning system.”