Using ASR's Student Success Analytics for Voluntary Framework of Accountability Reporting:
A comprehensive data warehouse offers countless benefits to colleges and universities, from simplifying required reporting to providing the backbone for a culture of data informed decision-making. In Davidson County Community College's (DCCC) case, it's also their foundation for the inaugural year of Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) reporting. First, let's start with a brief break-down of what VFA is, why it's needed, and what it is measuring by summarizing what can be found in much greater detail on the VFA website. Then, we will explore how DCCC used ASR's Student Success Analytics to report their VFA metrics.
What is VFA?
The VFA, which is defined and managed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), is the first comprehensive national accountability system that was created by community colleges, for community colleges. It is a framework to help gauge the effectiveness of their stated mission and their ability to meet the needs of students with diverse goals and educational experiences. The VFA measures student progress and outcomes, academic progress and completion, transfers to other community colleges and 4-year schools, and workforce outcomes for career and technical education.
Why is VFA needed?
Existing accountability measures in higher education are geared primarily for 4-year institutions. Because of this, their metrics do not always fit the missions of community colleges, which include part-time, non-credit, and technical students. The VFA provides community colleges with the ability to assess their performance, identify areas of improvement, and demonstrate their commitment to their unique academic missions.
What exactly does VFA Measure?
There are three main parts to the framework:
- Student Progress and Outcomes (SPO): The SPO measures evaluate the short-term progress and long-term outcomes of all students who begin their studies at a college in a given time period. SPO measures span the following categories:
- Developmental Education Progress
- Two-Year Progress Measures
- Six-Year Outcomes
- Workforce, Economic, and Community Development (WECD): The purpose of the WECD measures is to enable a community college to gauge its ability to meet the workforce needs of its community, which is typically a very important aspect of the college's mission. These measures are unique to the VFA and include two subsets of metrics: (1) Career and Technical Education (CTE) and (2) Adult Basic Education (ABE). WECD measures cover the following categories:
- Career and Technical Education Measures
- Non-Credit Workforce Courses
- Adult Basic Education/GED
- Student Learning Outcomes (SLO): The VFA's format for assessing SLO is based on the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) Transparency Framework. The framework covers six key areas:
- Student learning outcomes statements
- Assessment plans
- Assessment resources
- Current assessment activities
- Evidence of student learning
- Use of student learning evidence
More information on the NILOA Transparency Framework is available on its website. The SLO measures often bring about much debate on how best to assess what a student has learned, knows, and can do as a result of their studies - essentially gauging the quality of their higher education experience.
ASR's Student Success Analytics and how DCCC used it for VFA reporting:
ASR's Student Success Analytics (SSA) is a data warehouse that provides the data platform necessary for VFA reporting at DCCC by tracking daily data changes of all the necessary student and academic program attributes in a time series for longitudinal analysis. This is a natural starting point to define and analyze the VFA metrics for specific cohort groups across different time spans.
There are two SPO cohort years included in the VFA: a Six-Year Cohort and a Two-Year Cohort which are further broken down into three cohort types:
- The Main Cohort includes all students who enroll for the first time at the reporting institution.
- The Credential-Seeking Cohort comprises students (both degree- and certificate-seeking) who have earned 12 credit hours (or the equivalent) by the end of their second year, including the summer term. These credit hours can include developmental education credits and previously earned credits.
- The First-Time in College Cohort contains students with no post-secondary experience.
With Student Success Analytics, DCCC was able to easily define the cohorts by leveraging the built in historical "snapshots" and query the specific student, program, and credit attributes necessary to build the VFA report measures.
Mark Puterbaugh, Coordinator of Institutional Research Services at DCCC, notes, "ASR's Student Success Analytics and various querying techniques were instrumental and used almost exclusively for gathering all necessary information needed for the inaugural VFA reporting initiative. This will make future VFA reporting a faster, repeatable process."
Whether for VFA specifically or for detailed insight into enrollment, retention, student outcomes, and other factors important to the strategic direction of an institution, ASR's Student Success Analytics provides the basis for ongoing and reliable historical reporting.