Using Longitudinal Data to Increase Community College Student Success: A Guide to Measuring Milestone and Momentum Point Attainment

Jenkins, Paul Davis; Leinbach, D. Timothy

Most community colleges and many state community college systems collect extensive data on individual students. Unfortunately, these data are often underutilized in efforts to improve outcomes for individual students and colleges. Community college systems and their constituent colleges have only recently come to realize the potential for using student unit record (SUR) data for more than reporting student enrollments and program graduates. By organizing these data into term-by-term student transcript records over several years and incorporating individual student demographic data, colleges and states can create a powerful resource for understanding patterns of student progression and achievement over time. Understanding how students actually progress through their college programs is essential in developing strategies and choosing appropriate interventions to improve student outcomes. The challenge is to build expertise and capacity in college and state agency research departments to transform raw SUR data into meaningful information of practical use for policymakers and practitioners. Longitudinal SUR data can be used to answer many important questions about student progression (see Jenkins and Ewell, forthcoming). This Research Tool presents a guide to using such data to measure milestone achievements and momentum point attainments of community college students. Milestones are measurable educational achievements that include both conventional terminal completions, such as earning a credential or transferring to a baccalaureate program, and intermediate outcomes, such as completing developmental education or adult basic skills requirements. Momentum points are measurable educational attainments, such as completing a college-level math course, that are empirically correlated with the completion of a milestone. Milestone and momentum point data help to illuminate patterns of student progression and achievement. This guide is intended to help researchers in colleges and state agencies to use longitudinal SUR data to create simple and meaningful statistics on student achievement. The model presented in this guide will enable researchers to use longitudinal SUR data to identify different student groups among first-time community college students, calculate rates of attainment of milestones and momentum points for each group, and identify barriers to success for each group. The information from such an analysis can be used to identify college practices and student behaviors that are associated with successful outcomes and inform the development of policies and practices that address barriers to achievement. By continuing to track the progress of students over time, colleges and state agencies can also measure their progress in promoting student advancement and success.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
April 3, 2014