The second semester of the school year is underway, and our high school seniors are busy preparing for the next step in their journey. They are filling out FAFSA forms and college applications, making plans to enter trade schools or the military, or polishing up their resumes to prepare for entering the workforce. Whatever their chosen pathway, the RISE Network strives to understand their plans and provide resources to help guide them along the way.
Throughout the course of the academic year, the RISE Applied Data & Research Team, which works to promote meaningful data use, collaborates with our RISE Postsecondary Success Team and school partners to administer student surveys: at the start of the year for seniors, mid-year for juniors, and again for seniors prior to graduation.
Going beyond simply collecting data, the insights gathered help inform the work we do with our school partners, including strategy, programming, and individual student interventions. The surveys are also important – and reflect our commitment to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism – in that they provide a holistic understanding of the student while empowering them to provide feedback, set goals, and receive support from educators.
Collaborating to Improve Completion Rates
Given the vitality of student survey data, the process of collecting it has evolved and improved over time. RISE’s ADRT provides our school partners with QR codes, which are shared in Google Classroom, emailed, and printed on posters, providing students with easy ways to access the surveys. Many schools have implemented such creative solutions as providing laptops during lunch waves or English class periods, with incentives for completing surveys on the spot.
RISE has also developed a comprehensive survey response tracking system for our school partners, through which educators and counselors can view data visualizations in real-time – another motivating factor driving survey completion. Recently, subgroup data analysis was added to the tracker, which has enabled schools to identify which students have not yet completed their surveys and take initiative to follow up with these students. The subgroup analysis function also ensures that there is diverse representation among all students, helping to promote equity in the survey data.
Data collection efforts have been largely successful, as the start-of-year senior survey completion rates have increased from an average across all RISE schools of 66% in 2021-22 to 78.7% (or 2,331 students) in 2022-23. The increase in completion rates allows RISE and school partners a more complete view of the data, enabling us to better support our students.
Reviewing Senior Survey Results
The Fall senior survey, which provides a benchmark early in the academic year, starts by prompting students as to whether they have scheduled a meeting with their counselor to review credits and high school graduation requirements. It goes on to ask students, among other things, to identify their post-high school plans, the challenges they are facing, and their confidence in completing the necessary steps to achieve their plans.
So what did we learn from seniors who completed their start-of-year surveys in 2022?
The survey data indicate that while the majority of students (82.8%) have education-based aspirations, the remaining 17.2% have indicated that they are unsure or have plans to enter the military or directly into the workforce, speaking to the necessity to provide support for all postsecondary pathways. Over half of students stated that they were confident, to some degree, in achieving their goals, leaving roughly 37% who felt unsure or unconfident, indicating the need for further help and resources. A large number of students, particularly those with education-based plans, indicated that they are dealing with financial or academic challenges, and still more are having difficulties with completing paperwork or obtaining necessary documentation. Again, this highlights the need for additional and immediate support from schools to help them overcome these obstacles.
Real-time Data Applications
A primary goal of student survey administration and data tracking is to identify these needs and provide support in real-time. For example, data gathered from the 2022 Fall senior survey was presented to educators during the RISE Network Fall Convening this past November. Our Postsecondary Success Team provided a network-wide summary and school-specific data about students’ postsecondary goals and helped school teams with program development, using survey insights to enhance existing strategies. Additionally, data collected indicating student interest in career pathways informed our January Postsecondary “Role-Alike” session, which centered around the need for workforce development for these students.
Responses to mid-year junior surveys, which were recently collected, are uploaded into the RISE Data Hub for immediate viewing. Junior counselors use data to develop spring programming, and summer academy coordinators are able to target students who indicated that they were interested in enrolling.
End-of-year senior survey data help inform our summer melt texting program, enabling counselors to provide more targeted support for graduated seniors. Additionally, data from the Class of 2022 senior survey was used in our August educator retreats to aid in goal-setting for the year ahead.
Centering Our Work in Student Data
The real-time data RISE facilitates provides an entry point for hardworking counselors managing caseloads upwards of 250 students to help jumpstart conversations. Students indicate their interests and goals, which enables postsecondary teams to group them by pathway to help with milestone completion. They may also group first-generation college-bound students for additional support, and connect English language learners with educators who can help with language barrier challenges along the way.
Surveys conducted throughout the year give us insight into student plans, and ultimately, we endeavor to create conditions such that any student can be supported at any time of the year. At the RISE Network, we aim to support all student pathways equally and provide information and resources to our partner educators so they can better help students achieve their goals.
Visit the RISE Resources Portal to access sample surveys and other tools to facilitate postsecondary planning for students.