Our future depends on education. But how do we know that our schools are working the way that we all hope and not just for some students, but for all students?
It’s a question that educators and elected officials across the country constantly struggle with. Unlocking the answer requires us to go beyond once-a-year achievement test scores and focus on what we truly value in our communities and society. It calls for us to do a serious examination of how and whether resources are applied equally.
This is the central premise of equitable student success, which focuses on outcomes as a way of measuring the ability of schools to meet the needs of people of all backgrounds. Equitable student success holds that it’s not enough to build a diverse population—true inclusion means helping all students reach their goals.
Instituting programs that lead to those outcomes is a crucial part of equitable student success. But it also requires something else: having the right systems to define, organize, and track the effectiveness of student success initiatives.
With the proper systems in place, educators can understand if their work is propelling students toward their goals. The right systems can help identify gaps and point to successes that can be replicated in the service of defining student success.
When that happens, it is society as a whole that benefits, for it means that a broader cross-section of young people is on their way to becoming contributing members of society.
What Is Equitable Student Success?
Equitable student success is a concept that can take on different meanings depending on the organization and the context in which it is used.
Broadly speaking, most consider equitable student success as a way of incorporating outcomes into questions about the effectiveness and fairness of our schools, thereby moving the discussion about inclusion and diversity to a higher level.
The goal of any school in defining student success is to help individuals achieve their educational goals. It asks: if people of color or other groups fail at a higher rate than their peers, then are they truly being included? How does the system need to change to enable their success too?
In Oregon, Portland Community College (PCC) has answered that question as part of its program, “Say YESS to Equitable Student Success.” The school’s vision of equitable student success is: “Recognizing the unique value, perspectives, strengths, and challenges of every person who comes to PCC for education, all students will achieve their academic goals through equitable support, quality instruction, clear guidance to persist, and an unwavering commitment to completion shared by the entire college community.”
PCC has recognized that equitable student success requires institutions to focus on more than just access to services. It values the results of the educational experience as a measurement of how well they are doing their jobs.
The focus on outcomes requires an emphasis on many factors in defining student success, including resource allocation. One of the most important and potentially overlooked is the need to incorporate the right systems for tracking progress.
Why the Right Systems Matter in Tracking Equitable Student Success Initiatives
As the saying goes, if you cannot measure it, you can’t manage it. Putting the right systems in place to measure results is critical to judging the effectiveness and efficiency of equitable student success.
The Frontier Set is a group of high-performing colleges engaged in a five-year project to improve equitable student outcomes. The organization put performance indicators front and center from the onset. The collaboration stated that data can point out gaps that indicate where an institution should invest more time and money. It can also highlight successes that can create momentum for continued progress. For instance, the report focused on work underway at San Jacinto Community College. As a result of its equitable student success initiatives, the college produced almost a 50% increase in the number of degrees and certificates awarded between 2012 and 2016.
Implementing systems that enable the accurate tracking of outcomes can also help improve equitable student success by enabling schools to learn from each other. The data provides a framework for comparison across different measures in place in different states. The right systems ensure data quality to make good decisions on what is working and what isn’t.
The Data Quality Campaign has studied the importance of getting the right data on student growth. Examples of how measurement can play a role in setting imperatives in defining student success are becoming increasingly common.
For example, Dick Startz, professor of economics at University of California, Santa Barbara, looked at US Department of Education statistics and found that only about a third of schools with a majority of Black students offer a calculus course. In comparison, three-fifths of white schools have such a class. It’s difficult to have equal success if resources are so unequal. Without the right systems in place, that kind of gap cannot be identified.
At Howard University, administrators at the Center for Honors and Scholar Development looked at application rates for certain generous national scholarships. The school found that too many high-achieving students were not applying. Howard implemented a systems approach to better identify potential candidates earlier. The school also instituted additional resources focused on helping those students complete the applications. According to EAB, a consulting organization for colleges, Howard increased the number of applications by 237% in just one year. Surfacing case studies like these are fundamental to informing and developing strategies for defining student success.
Targeting Data-Driven Student Success with Proven Systems
Equitable student success cannot be left to chance. It is a proactive process that involves helping students envision what they can become and assisting them in building a plan to get there. Measurement and management systems can help align resources in support of those various objectives.
XAP is an educational technology company, now in its fourth decade, devoted to providing online tools to enable students to explore careers and apply to institutions of higher learning or other postsecondary learning opportunities..
For middle and high school students, XAP provides Choices360, a career and academic planning solution that provides tools for building a meaningful career and life plan. It includes modules for guiding career exploration, planning, setting SMART Goals, tracking progress, and measuring results. It enables schools to work with students to look over a four- to six-year timeframe and plan for reaching their goals.
Choices360 simplifies the process for filling out college applications and provides electronic transcript submission and integration with Common App. It also helps create strategies and plans and provide a level playing field for everyone to compete.
Today, XAP’s products are used by thousands of kindergarten through twelfth-grade students and postsecondary institutions and adult agencies in the United States and Canada. They can play a role in defining student success for the long term. Explore XAP’s comprehensive and proven online solutions for promoting academic and career readiness for learners of all ages.
Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.
To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!