This year, I attended the National Charter School Conference (NCSC) to share GradSnapp, a technology that helps students complete college by tracking continuous student progress. Over the course of the conference, the most common sentiment I heard from attendees is the desire to know what happens to their alumni once they graduate from their schools. For most charter schools, college enrollment, and more importantly, college completion is the goal for their students. But I also heard that tracking college outcomes is an elusive challenge for schools as they lose contact with their alumni.
To combat this, an increasing number of charter schools are dedicating staff and resources to support their college attending alumni. The pioneers in this area have invested in creating alumni teams that can track and support their college attending alumni. These teams are not only critical in their primary goal of college support, but also provide an invaluable feedback loop on how their high school teams can better prepare students to succeed in college. GradSnapp’s comprehensive system provides the technology that alumni teams need to track all the information needed to gain a deep and holistic understanding of students in three fundamental areas:
- Academic – How are students progressing towards a degree and how are they managing the overall adjustment to college culture?
- Financial – How are students and their families managing financial aid and paying for college?
- “Life Happens” – What situational circumstances related to personal and family responsibilities can impact college performance?
We know that low-income and first-generation college students face an array of issues that can inhibit college success. And we know that college graduation rates are far lower than high school graduation rates for many charter schools. Having valid quantifiable data to better understand the college journey is a key part of evaluating how well charter schools are preparing students. At NCSC, teachers, counselors and board members all talked about the importance of getting the right data that will help schools analyze and evaluate their academic curricula and college counseling support programs.
Using GradSnapp, charter schools can collect critical information from students directly, via staff interactions, and by importing the National Student Clearinghouse data. Once the data is in the system, it becomes actionable via GradSnapp’s Student Risk Indicators (SRIs). In practice, SRIs allow for alumni teams to identify the highest priority students that may need timely interventions and support to keep them on track to graduation.
The Dell Scholars Program has used this technology to support our scholars with a very lean staff. Because we have been using the system for over a decade, we can analyze year-on-year data that helps us identify the most common issues and trends so we can get ahead of those issues and help the next group of students avoid those pitfalls. Charter schools are similarly in a great position to incorporate the lessons learned from their college-attending alumni to expand their college readiness curriculum and better prepare students and their families to truly be college ready.