VFA: A toolbox for student success

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Monitoring “key performance indicators” (KPI) — such as students passing math and English their first term, earning at least six credits in that first term and 24 credits over the first year, and continuing to the next term — can help colleges gauge whether students will succeed. And they are a key tool in the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA), the first national framework that provides mission-aligned measures for community colleges.

VFA data highlight the close relationship between early momentum KPIs and the six-year credential completion rate at participating colleges. VFA colleges tracked students who entered students in fall 2012. After six years, the average credential completion rate for students who achieved the KPI of earning six or more credits in the first term was 41 percent. Students who did not achieve the KPI had an average credential completion rate of only 10 percent (The rates include both part-time and full-time students).

The VFA measures student progress and outcomes, including pre-collegiate preparation (such as developmental education and adult basic education), academic progress and momentum, completion and transfer measures, and workforce outcomes for career and technical education. It tracks student progress and outcomes measures over one, two and six years. (See the complete set of metrics and outcomes.)

The value of the VFA comes from institutions shifting from using the data as an accountability measure to using the data to drive student success. The VFA provides institutions the ability to benchmark against colleges in their state, as well as colleges selected based on similar demographics. It provides a clear and concise story to begin sometimes tough conversations at your institution about student success on your campus.

If you’re not a VFA member, your institution is missing out on valuable data that can drive student success. In these challenging times, the VFA can be a cost-effective way to monitor your institution’s progress towards successful student outcomes. Join VFA today.

Case in point

A participating VFA college submitted a use case outlining how it leveraged VFA data to analyze its performance of minority students completing their developmental education sequence. Here’s an overview:

Problem: A VFA participating college had years of institutional data and analysis, but it did not know how well it was doing compared to other institutions regarding developmental education outcomes for minority populations (in particular, how minority students were completing their developmental education sequences).

Analysis: The college used VFA benchmark data to compare developmental education progress outcomes for its minority students.

The college used VFA data to create a baseline of all students who were referred to developmental education in the tracking period. After creating the baseline of students who were referred to developmental education, the college then analyzed the percentage of developmental students who enrolled in a developmental education course and completed the sequence in six years.

The next analysis looked at tracking the progress of the minority population regarding their completion of the developmental education sequence.

The college then examined the percentage of developmental students by race and ethnicity who completed a developmental sequence in six years. The analysis looked at the college’s data versus their peer comparison group and all participating VFA colleges.

Once this analysis was complete, it showed that the college lagged across all racial groups regarding completing developmental education sequences.  

Key takeaways: Through its use of the VFA and its data, the college realized it was underperforming compared to peers across all racial ethnic populations for getting students through the developmental sequence. Based on the results, the college determined a developmental redesign was needed.

These types of stories show well that VFA can serve community colleges. If your college has a use case it would like to share, let us know.

About the Author

Vaughn Alexander Hendriex
is project manager of the Voluntary Framework of Accountability at the American Association of Community Colleges.