New Program Measures Achievement And Retention

Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.

New Paltz has joined a web-based program that provides “an expanded view of student retention and completion,” according to SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian’s February Faculty Report.

The Student Achievement Measure (SAM) initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, is a report on “undergraduate student progress and completion,” according to their website.

They take information on student graduation rates from transfer and part-time students, to give a more accurate synopsis of the number of students who earn degrees.

On their website, the SAM initaitive cites a study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center which found that across the nation, more than one in five students who earn a degree, “do so at an institution other than the one where they started.”

Because of the high number of students who transfer schools before completing their degree, the SAM initiative found the way the federal government calculated graduation rates — based only on first-time, full-time students — to be misleading.

Interim Assistant Vice President Lucy Walker said while federally-calculated graduation rates are based on the success of first-time, full-time students — those entering as first-years — the research that SAM is conducting through National Student Clearinghouse data will include the graduation numbers of first-time, full-time students at New Paltz, as well as students who transferred in or out of New Paltz.

Stony Brook University was the first SUNY school to join the SAM initiative and in December SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher encouraged all SUNY schools to also join.

Data on the SAM website is organized by school. Each has their own page with two sets of three bar graphs. Each graph contains data on the percentage of students who graduated in four, five and six years. Graphs on the left side of the screen break down the number of graduates who began at the school as first-time, full-time students — and either graduated from New Paltz or another institute. The graphs on the right give statistics on the graduation rates for students who began as part-time students or those who transferred into the school.

Christian said it should not be seen as a failture when a student leaves New Paltz to eventaully earn a degree elsewhere and that this initiative will be a meaningful measure of both student and collective educational success.

Christian also said the initiative will be a step towards greater transparency.

“The SAM reports will give us an additional avenue for tracking our progress on these important measures of institutional effectiveness,” Christian said. “We will be able to include the SAM logo on our home page and other sites regularly visited by prospective students and their parents, high school counselors, policy makers and others.”

Walker said information for New Paltz will be open and accessible on the SAM site this spring. She said that data from the last six years — dating back to 2007 — will be available. The site will be updated every January.