Investing in Student Success: Three New “Momentum Metrics” Case Studies and Stimulus Opportunities

Thursday, June 3, 2021
Lauren Norton
Senior Associate

Last summer, ESG published From Tails to Heads: Building Momentum for Postsecondary Success and introduced the concept of “Momentum Metrics” — eight of the most predictive indicators of postsecondary preparation, retention, and success. We believe that these metrics will help educators and administrators effectively target resources and supports at the individual student level, and can also inform broader conversations at the aggregate level about improving advising policies and programs to close equity gaps. 

While we shared many examples of the Momentum Metrics in action throughout the original report, we wanted to take a deeper dive into some of the places that are implementing innovative strategies around the Metrics to better understand how their models can be replicated elsewhere. With billions of dollars heading to states and districts courtesy of the American Rescue Plan, the time is ripe for education leaders to invest in actionable strategies that will enable their use of the Momentum Metrics for the benefit of all students. 

We’re excited to share three new case studies that illustrate how a district, a state, and an intermediary organization are using different Momentum Metrics to better target supports and accelerate students’ progress toward successful postsecondary transitions. Each case study offers opportunities for replication and adaptation, particularly with new stimulus resources available for investment in helping students succeed. 

Advanced Coursework Gains in the San Antonio Independent School District

The San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) serves as an exemplar for how a district’s investment in and focus on the Momentum Metrics can pay off with dramatic gains in student success. The district’s use of data has played a strong role in their re-imagining of advising systems, particularly related to advanced course-taking. Research has shown that participating in advanced coursework, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual enrollment, has positive effects on students’ postsecondary enrollment and retention. By leveraging the College Board’s AP Potential metric, SAISD has built a strong district-wide culture and expectation around advanced course-taking. The district uses data in the district-facing AP Potential report to generate a series of customized reports that list the potential to succeed for every student at every high school campus for every AP course offered by the College Board. School leaders and counselors use the reports to inform their course offerings and advising strategies. Throughout the year, educators use the reports to scaffold the support they provide to the students enrolled in their class, with students with a lower AP Potential score receiving more support than those who entered the course with an already-high chance of success. 

Districts looking to replicate SAISD’s efforts can also consider hiring a full-time employee to lead the management and use of district-wide data around college and career readiness, as San Antonio has done. Dedicated capacity at the district level means that SAISD has the ability to do deep dives to understand trends across a set of key transition milestones, and then can  interpret those trends and provide actionable information directly to schools, counselors, and teachers. Read the full SAISD case study to learn more.

Connecticut’s Statewide FAFSA Leadership

Though the bulk of American Rescue Plan funds are dedicated for district use, states are also receiving a substantial amount of funding that they can dedicate to better data capacity and use. Connecticut has provided strong state-level leadership in the use of the Momentum Metrics. 

Recognizing that completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a key indicator of the likelihood that students will enroll in college directly after high school, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) recently revamped its existing statewide FAFSA dashboard, which provides student-level data to high schools on a weekly basis, to incorporate a public-facing view that compares completion rates among high schools across the state to promote friendly competition. The state developed a template data sharing agreement for districts to complete to opt-in for access to the dashboard. CSDE and the Connecticut Office of Higher Education have partnered to provide weekly updates on student-level FAFSA completion data to districts, in pursuit of the state’s goal for high schools to increase their year-to-year FAFSA completion rates by five percentage points. While the completion challenge officially ends on June 30, 2021, the majority of participating districts have already exceeded last year’s completion rate. This is significant as nationally, year-over-year FAFSA rates are down by nearly 6 percentage points.

Improved statewide data dashboards, direct data support to districts, and incentivizing implementation of data-driven strategies among districts are all investments states can make with the stimulus funds available for addressing learning loss. To learn more about Connecticut’s efforts, check out the full case study on their work

Seamless Enrollment Support from The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

Even though third-party organizations are not direct recipients of American Rescue Plan funds, these intermediaries can be a valuable partner in providing supplementary support to districts — a short-term investment can help re-engage students and train districts for long-term payoff. As our case study describes in detail, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools initiated a pilot program last summer to address summer melt and keep students on track for seamless enrollment in postsecondary education. Project Grad, Get Ready to Achieve Your Dreams worked with approximately 120 LAUSD students who were enrolling in the four higher education institutions with the highest historical enrollment of students in the Partnership’s network — two community colleges and two four-year institutions. Modeled after the Posse Foundation’s near-peer model, the pilot included support from two college success advisors, who were hired as part of the Americorps VISTA program. To adapt to the pandemic environment, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools provided live Zoom college support sessions, direct texting and phone call outreach from advisors to students, and an online message board forum for students to connect with one another as they navigated the enrollment process. 

You can learn more about the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools’ work on seamless enrollment and other Momentum Metrics in the full case study

Make sure to read the From Tails to Heads report to understand the full set of Momentum Metrics and how they can be used to support student success, and dive into all three case studies here