The Data Challenge
When Achieving the Dream began in 2004, few colleges had systems in place to collect and analyze data that allowed for cohort tracking and disaggregation. A central goal of Achieving the Dream has been to demonstrate that better institutional systems for collecting and reporting student outcome data could help institutional, state, and national policymakers improve student outcomes.
Across higher education, there is interest in strengthening state data and performance measurement systems that track and make visible student progress and success. The goal is to improve student results, particularly at community colleges and non-selective four-year institutions. The strategy is to identify at-risk students early and provide them with supports that can help them stay in school and graduate.
Colleges first joining Achieving the Dream typically analyze data on student outcomes on a semester by semester basis. They look at trends from one semester to the next in terms of enrollments, completions, and so on. Achieving the Dream encourages colleges to look at that cohort-based data over time (longitudinal data) and to disaggregate by race, ethnicity, and other student characteristics. Using this approach, the college can determine how many students who enter developmental math:
- complete the developmental sequence
- advance through gateway courses
- remain enrolled over time
- complete certificates or degrees (or transfer)
Instead of looking at course or semester statistics, Achieving the Dream Institutions look at specific students over time and identify key junctures where particular groups of students fall out and they implement strategies to help these students succeed.
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