Data Resource Roundup, Vol. 10

October 11, 2017

By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation

Welcome to the 10th edition of the Data Resource Roundup! In this series we periodically share resources, including blogs, courses, white papers and other tools, that cover various aspects of data. Whether it’s better managing and tracking data or getting your organization to become more data-driven, it will all be here in the roundup. Have your own resources that we should feature here? Be sure to let me know about them via email or by putting them in the comments. Previous volumes: 1a1b23456789.

It has been quite a while since we had a Roundup, and the masses cry out for these excellent research and data resources. Fear not, it has been a busy few weeks on that front, and there is plenty to share below.

FIRST-GEN VS. CONTINUING-GEN: Time to update those boilerplate statistics on first-generation students! The National Center for Education Statistics is out with data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) that examines the high school and postsecondary experiences of first-generation and continuing-generation students. Here's your ELS:2002 snapshot: it’s a nationally representative sample of high school sophomores in 2002 who were followed through 2012. NCES describes first-generation as “students who enrolled in postsecondary education and whose parents do not have any postsecondary education experience.” Continuing-generation students have at least one parent with some postsecondary experience, but this particular brief focuses on students with at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The brief’s results, unfortunately, paint a discouraging picture for first-generation students. When compared to their continuing-generation peers, first-generation students faced expectations gaps for their future education, as well as gaps in plans to take the SAT or ACT. First-generation students were also 2.5 times more likely to have a 13+ month gap between high school graduation and their first postsecondary enrollment. Ten years after their sophomore year of high school, first-generation students were less likely than continuing-generation ones to have obtained a bachelor’s degree (20 percent vs. 42 percent), and first-generation students more often reported not being able to afford school as a reason for leaving college without a credential. This brief is both a handy reference and an important reminder of the work our field has before it.

WHAT’S YOUR MAJOR? TAKE OUR ADVICE: Gallup and Strada Education Network teamed up to survey Americans about how they chose their college majors. Talking to more than 22,000 individuals, they classified responses into four buckets indicating where they solicited advice about their major. The buckets included formal sources (counselors and the media), informal social networks (friends, family and community leaders), informal school-based sources (college staff and professors, high school teachers, coaches), and informal work-based sources (employers, coworkers, experienced professionals, and the military). Strada and Gallup found that 55 percent of U.S. adults with some college but no more than a bachelor’s degree listed their informal social network as the top source of advice about their major. Despite this, informal social networks’ advice was rated the second-least helpful category (after informal work- and school-based sources). The implication here is disconcerting: students are most often not taking the most useful advice. The silver lining? First-generation students pursuing a two-year degree were much less likely to rely on their informal social networks for advice about their major.

NEW SAT, SAME EQUITY GAPS: The results are in from the first year of the new SAT, and they tell a mixed tale for students. The redesigned test was first administered in March 2017; 93 percent of the high school class of 2017 (the largest cohort in SAT history) took it. The SAT redesigned its college and career readiness benchmarks with the new assessments; overall, 46 percent of students who took it met the new SAT benchmarks. Unfortunately, significant gaps exist among racial and ethnic groups on meeting college and career readiness benchmarks. For example, 70 percent of Asian students and 59 percent of White students met both the math and evidenced-based reading and writing benchmark, while just 31 percent of Hispanic/Latino, 27 percent of American Indian, and 20 percent of Black/African American students did so. College Board also describes outcomes from accessing Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. Over 400,000 students from the class of 2017 accessed this resource, and studying with it for 20 hours was associated with an average score gain of 115 points on the PSAT/SAT.

INVEST IN COLLEGE SUCCESS: Using data from four-year public institutions in Texas, researchers examined the effects of students and families being just above and just below the adjusted gross income threshold of receiving an “automatic zero EFC.” The authors find no evidence of impact on students’ first-year GPA, credits attempted, or re-enrollment, but those eligible for a maximum Pell later go on to attempt more credits and are two percentage points (13%) more likely to graduate within four years. They also go on to earn five to eight percent more four years after first enrolling in college. The authors formulate a model and apply it to national data, concluding: “Graduation and earnings effects remain positive for the duration of our panel, seven years after college entry, and the estimated increase in federal tax payments is large enough that government expenditures on grant aid are fully recouped within ten years of college entry….The benefits to students at the automatic zero threshold for Pell Grant aid are substantial, and increasing support for these students pays for itself through financial gains for the public.”

TENNESSEE PROMISE’S PROMISE: The Tennessee Promise ensures two years of tuition-free attendance at an in-state community or technical college, and early returns are, well, promising. The Tennessean reports that 56 percent of Promise students who started college in 2015 had graduated, transferred, or persisted two years later, compared to 39 percent of students not taking advantage of the Promise. Not as encouraging: the fact that students of color were less likely to take advantage of the Promise; just 46 percent of eligible Black students and 56 percent of eligible Hispanic students participated, compared to 71 percent of White students. Emily House of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission noted that the Promise’s requirements for students – namely full-time enrollment and participation in mentoring and community service – also had an impact, along with the free tuition.

STAY IN SCHOOL: The National Center for Education Statistics is out with a useful practice guide titled “Preventing Dropout in Secondary Schools.” These practice guides are particularly helpful because they not only provide concrete approaches to address the problem in question, but also provide specific templates for tracking data and working with students. For example, how should a school’s information system look to track and visualize absences? The four evidence-based recommendations for reducing dropout rates include:

  1. Monitor the progress of all students, and proactively intervene when students show early signs of attendance, behavior, or academic problems;
  2. Provide intensive, individualized support to students who have fallen off-track and face significant challenges to success;
  3. Engage students by offering curricula and programs that connect schoolwork with college and career success and that improve students’ capacity to manage challenges in and out of school; and
  4. For schools with many at-risk students, create small, personalized communities to facilitate monitoring and support.

This guide is a great pass-along to any member organization working closely with a school or district serving at-risk populations.

EFFECTS OF DUAL ENROLLMENT: The Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College has a new report out on the outcomes of students who took “dual enrollment” courses in high school. Per the report, dual enrollment students are under age 18 when they have their first postsecondary enrollment (while concurrently enrolled in high school). The report includes 200,000 high school students who first took a community college course in fall 2010 and follows those students for five years. Students were aged 14 to 17 when they first dual-enrolled in a postsecondary course. Eighty-eight (88) percent of these students went on to have a postsecondary enrollment after high school. Interestingly, 47 percent of dual-enrolled students first matriculated to a community college between ages 18 and 20, and 84 percent re-enrolled in the institution at which they had previously dual enrolled. Among students who dual-enrolled at age 17 and first matriculated to a community college after high school, 46 percent earned a credential within five years. Among dual-enrollers who first matriculated to a four-year institution after high school, 64 percent completed a college credential within five years. This report is obviously particularly useful to member organizations whose students have access to dual enrollment programs. The data are also disaggregated by student-income approximations and states (among which there is considerable variation in dual enrollment prevalence and outcomes).

TODAY IN DEPRESSING DATAVIZ: Tuition has been growing faster than inflation. For decades. Now we have visual evidence thanks to U.S. News and World Report. It includes data from 300 “National Universities” (research institutions offering a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs) to show the massive growth in tuition and fees since 1997-98. The average tuition and fees at a private university on the list grew 157 percent between 1997-98 and 2017-18. Out-of-state tuition and fees at public institutions grew 194 percent over the same period, and in-state students bore the worst brunt, seeing their fees grow a massive 237 percent.

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