A Multifaceted Approach to Using Data

Types of Analysis to Include

Qualitative Analysis

Quantitative Analysis

Cost Analysis

Types of Data to Collect

Labor Market Data

Labor market data are essential for two purposes: determining high-demand industrial sectors and occupations in which to target career pathways, and measuring the impact of those pathways on student success in attaining jobs and a family-sustaining income.

For purposes of assessing labor market demand, you can make use of publicly available data from your region’s Workforce Investment Board, from state Departments of Labor (or equivalent agencies that manage employment and workforce programs), and from federal sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census. Just as important is obtaining qualitative information from local employers about their needs for job candidates and skills in specific occupations.

Labor market data will also help in completing the picture of ABE students’ success in their pathways. By obtaining data on their wage and employment status before entry in your initiative, and then tracking their placement into jobs and their wage progression, you can assess your program’s economic outcomes. This will require access to Social Security Numbers on student participants, so that their records can be matched with those of the Unemployment Insurance system data on wages and employment.

Student Progress Data

Maintaining a database of individual student participants, and tracking their progress over time, is an invaluable resource for evaluating the success of your initiative, Doing so allows you to establish a baseline of student performance and completion against which to measure the success of the program, and to monitor progress in improving student outcomes. It is especially important to collect data at the student unit record level, which individual colleges typically maintain and report to their state system offices. To track student progress, you will need the ability to flag ABE students and follow them over time and through different systems, including adult education and college enrollment.

Some states are building P-20 data systems that bring together longitudinal data from elementary and secondary schools through college. If such systems are not available in your state, you may need to develop agreements to access and match relevant data across systems.

States should collect baseline data to better understand current transition rates and loss points.If the data is not readily available, you may need to develop a plan to improve data-collection capabilities. For baseline and comparative purposes, you may want to consider collecting national and state statistics on ABE student progress and outcomes, such as persistence (semester-to-semester retention), credit attainment, and completion rates, as well as loss points.

The analysis of student baselines and progress is strengthened by collecting data on participants’ demographic characteristics, such as gender, race, age, education level, family income, financial aid status, and employment status.

Cost Data

Collecting data on the costs of your program can help in managing implementation, as well as in making the case for this approach to preparing ABE students for attaining credentials and careers. Tracking program budget information at the state and college level, and comparing it to costs for traditional ABE programs, can shed light on the cost effectiveness of your initiative. A more formal evaluation can compare costs and benefits of the program, for students, for educational institutions and for taxpayers.

Key cost measures for students include tuition, other expenses for college attendance, and wages forgone while enrolled; benefits include marginal increases in earnings, attaining qualifications and credentials; and subsidies to support tuition or other costs. For colleges, measures could include program costs such as staffing, instruction, and support services, while benefits include tuition awards, such as Pell grants; public or philanthropic support, and increased enrollments supported by state (FTE) education funding. State costs include support for program staff and expenses, and student tuition and other supports; benefits include additional tax revenues accruing to newly employed workers, and reduced public benefit costs.

Develop a plan to collect data about how much it costs to run programs and conduct cost-to-completion calculations. Carrying out a full benefit/cost study is costly and complex, but you may want to consider collecting a subset of cost measures to monitor implementation costs and estimate cost to completion for participants.

Improving your Capacity to Collect and Use Data