A recent SCORE Institutetook a look at barriers to students’ postsecondary success and examined data-driven ways to help students successfully make the transition from high school to higher education.  

Momentum Metrics For Greater Postsecondary Success offered an overview of Education Strategy Group’s (ESG) Momentum Metrics, a set of indicators that have shown to be predictive of students enrolling in postsecondary education and being and success. This SCORE Institute identified key data points relating to postsecondary enrollment in Tennessee (many from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s (THEC) recent college-going report, College-Going and the Class of 2021), gave an overview of the metrics detailed in ESG’s From Tails to Head report, and spotlighted work from two Tennessee school districts that are using those metrics to boost postsecondary enrollment. 

The Data 

Key data points considered during the session included: 

  • Tennessee’ college-going rate for the class of 2021 is 52.8 percent — down 4 points from the year prior and down 9 points from class of 2019 pre-pandemic rate of 61.8 percent. 
  • College-going in Tennessee has now dropped below the earliest rate recorded by THEC, which was 55.7 percent in 2009. 
  • College-going rates for Black (44 percent) and Hispanic (35 percent) students trail other student groups 
  • Summer melt — the phenomenon where a student intending to enroll in postsecondary directly after high school fails to do so — remains a challenge, with about 40 percent of Tennessee high school graduates impacted based on pre-pandemic data from 2019.  
The Metrics 

ESG’s indicators of postsecondary preparation, retention, and success are grouped into preparing, applying, and enrolling categories. A few of the metrics include: ensuring 9th graders are on track to graduate (preparing), FAFSA completion (applying), and gateway course completion (enrolling). The metrics are important because we know that students who meet certain benchmarks by the end of 9th grade are more likely to graduate on time. We know that high school seniors who complete the FAFSA are more likely to enroll in college. And, students who enroll in a gateway course are more likely to persist and earn a degree or credential. 

The Work 

The Institute offered a look at work in Tennessee districts where the Momentum Metrics are being used to improve outcomes for students. Dr. Schanda Doughty, director of 9-12 curriculum and instruction at Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, and Latonya Jackson, director of secondary and career/technical education for Lauderdale County Schools, discussed their efforts using the metrics. Those efforts included things like increasing FAFSA completion, providing summer bridge programming for rising high school students, the addition of a college and career coordinator to advise students, and the creation of a data dashboard with an early warning system for 9th graders that allows teachers, counselors, and administrators to ensure students stay on track to graduate.  

To learn more about Momentum Metrics and the efforts in Tennessee and across the country to improve postsecondary outcomes, view the entire SCORE Institute on this topic on our YouTube channel. Watch below and learn how these metrics can factor into your work to ensure postsecondary success for Tennessee students. 

Dr. Richard Bailey is SCORE’s director of strategic practice and data. SCORE’s communications manager, Diane Hughes, contributed to this post.