Data Resource Roundup, Vol. 6

November 29, 2016

By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Data Resource Roundup! In this series we will periodically share resources, including blogs, courses, white papers and other tools, that cover various aspects of data. Whether it’s better managing and tracking of data or getting your organization to become more data-driven, it will all be here in the Roundup. Have your own resources that should be featured here? Be sure to let me know about them via email or by putting them in the comments. Want to see previous volumes? See Vol. 1 here and here, and check out Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, and Vol. 5.

STATISTICAL VS. PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Fair warning: This post is a little nerdy and academic. But don’t run away from it! Columbia professor Andrew Gelman looks at a paper titled, “Gender bias in open source: Pull request acceptance of women versus men.” The specifics here aren’t important; the point is that the authors of the paper in question were very specific in their display of confidence intervals and estimates. As Gelman writes, “What they didn’t realize — no surprise, since it’s not really covered in statistics classes or textbooks — is that when assessing the importance of variation, you need some sort of comparison. Sometimes this is stated this way: Statistical significance is not the same as practical significance.” The takeaway here for NCAN members is that not all variations are meaningful. For example, if your female students enroll at rates 1 percent higher than male students in one year, is that information that should be acted on, or is it “noise” in the data? Probably the latter. Even if this was a consistent finding, its magnitude probably isn’t something to lose sleep over.

THIS IS JUST GOOD ADVICE FOR ANYONE, REALLY: The Association for Institutional Research (AIR, not to be confused with the American Institutes for Research) is a great resource for higher education professionals working in institutional research offices. It also tends to have some content that is more widely applicable. “Implementing a Data Governance Framework” is one such piece of content. There is some really great advice for programs looking to establish better data-related policies. This is my particular favorite: “Consider an incremental approach. Although an incremental approach to establishing a data governance framework can be problematic (because some pieces of the framework can’t function until others are in place), consciously implementing the framework in logical phases has several advantages. First, it allows you to identify and celebrate concrete successes early in the process, which is crucial to developing buy-in and momentum. Second, like any major task, realizing something as broad and involved as an institution-wide data governance framework is more manageable when deliberately and thoughtfully divided into its component parts.”

READING IS “FUN”DAMENTAL: O’Reilly Media has some really great eBooks, and this archive has all of those that are available for free. Reading longform is a luxury for which many people don’t often take the time, but there are some great resources in here. I recommend “Integrated Analytics” and “Data Driven.”

MAKE THIS TITLE STRONGER: Dr. Stephanie Evergreen is one of my go-to data visualization sources, and she doesn’t disappoint here. In this blog post, Evergreen demonstrates the value of strong titles attached to data visualizations. This advice extends into Powerpoint presentations, by the way. I lean heavily on this advice and think that you should too. The advice of color-coding words in your title to correspond with the visualization is particularly clever.

BETTER ENGAGE PARENTS: Many NCAN members are already mindful of how to successfully engage parents in their student’s success. But not all NCAN members – and some surely would like to be better in this area. Enter the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Engaging Parents, Developing Leaders: A Self-Assessment and Planning Tool for Nonprofits and Schools.” The resource is in part an assessment of how well an organization does four things: “builds a culture of respect, inclusion and equity,” “coaches parents on their competence and confidence in their roles,” “listens to and collaborates with parents,” and “works with other organizations and communities to benefit parents.” Chock full of group exercises that should open a dialogue for organizational examination, this resource could be one to flag for your next team-building time.

TIME TO DEGREE: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center examined more than 2 million students who received an associate’s as their first and only degree or received their first bachelor’s degree between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. They specifically looked at: (1) the amount of time that elapsed between first enrollment and degree receipt and (2) the amount of time students were actually enrolled, converted into academic years. 

Overall, associate’s degree-earners attained a degree after being enrolled for 3.3 academic years and over 5.5 years of elapsed time from first enrollment to attainment. Bachelor’s recipients were enrolled for 5.1 academic years over an elapsed time of 5.7 years before attainment. To add even more evidence that the two- and four-year time-to-completion standards are unrealistic, the NSCRC’s research found that “among associate degree earners from two-year public institutions, only 14.7 percent received their degrees in two calendar years and only 7.4 percent had two academic years of full-time or full-time equivalent enrollment.” Among bachelor’s recipients from four-year public institutions, “37.5 percent received their degrees in four calendar years and only 10.1 percent had four academic years of full-time or full-time equivalent enrollment.” My article in Success Digest has the rest.

Stay tuned until next time for even more resources on data and evaluation!

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