Using data-informed decision-making to close achievement gaps and improve student outcomes.
Community colleges make choices every day that may change the course of a student’s life - and when decision-making is informed by data, there is heightened efficiency and focus that yields alignment in purpose. We’ve observed it, firsthand, because data generation and its use inform and permeate our work at Achieving the Dream. When used effectively, data highlights when and where students struggle, helps prioritize efforts around what is working and what is not, and sets a direct, clear course toward sustainable institutional change that supports student achievement.
At Achieving the Dream, we recognize institutions have created a culture of evidence when there is a routine practice of using data-informed decision-making to close achievement gaps and improve student outcomes in a continuous cycle of improvement. These colleges also align information technology (IT) with institutional research (IR) and provide their people access to key data and indicators that maximize their capacity to formulate and evaluate solutions that are scalable and impactful. Yet we know that data generation alone does not create cultural practice. Institutions must regularly engage stakeholders in examining data and identifying solutions for improvement.
Achieving the Dream’s seasoned Data Coaches guide colleges on asking the right types of questions and developing relevant data sets to identify areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement. They also advise institutions on their IR and IT capacity and the data needed to support the development of policies and programs that build student momentum and optimize opportunities for credential completion. Establishing a cultural practice of regularly examining data and targeting improvements is an imperative, not an option, in Achieving the Dream colleges.
Our promising practices and guides are informative tools designed to help community colleges understand how to build a strong, institution-wide culture of evidence and inquiry that not only facilitates student-centered change efforts, but also track measurable results in a cycle of improvement with a relentless focus on student achievement.
The examination of student outcomes, redesign of data collection and reporting processes, and consistent practice of data-informed decision-making can lead to transformational change for both student and institution.