National Student Clearinghouse(R) Receives Major Grant to Develop First Nationwide High School Research and Reporting System

Feb 12, 2009, 08:00 ET from National Student Clearinghouse

HERNDON, Va., Feb. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Student Clearinghouse will develop a groundbreaking high school research and reporting system that will allow participating high schools in all 50 states to better measure the academic success of their students after they graduate. A new $2.9 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help support the creation of the system, providing critical feedback for both high schools and postsecondary institutions. The Clearinghouse, a non-profit organization founded in 1993 in cooperation with the higher education community, acts as the agent for more than 3,200 U.S. postsecondary institutions and more than 1,600 high schools providing them with educational verification and research services.

This new Clearinghouse system -- an expansion of its StudentTracker for High Schools system -- will address the urgent need within the education community for a standardized method for measuring the actual educational outcomes of students once they finish high school. Currently, there is no universally accepted way to determine the postsecondary attainment of high school students. As a result, U.S. policy makers and educators are unable to uniformly assess the performance of the nation's secondary school system and make information-based decisions on policy and program improvements.

"This grant represents an incredible opportunity for the Clearinghouse and our participating institutions to contribute to a greater understanding of the country's educational efforts. It also represents a logical extension of the Clearinghouse's unique data collection and reporting capabilities, providing the first true information bridge between secondary and postsecondary education," said Clearinghouse President Rick Torres. "Most importantly, by providing an accurate and consistent way to measure student achievement, we enable educators to better prepare the nation's students to compete and succeed."

Over the next 12 months, the Clearinghouse will partner with a small number of states to conduct data matching tests, redesign reports, develop new analysis tools, and obtain user feedback. The number and names of the participating pilot states have not been finalized.

"Most high schools and school districts have no way of tracking their students from graduation through college enrollment and completion," said Vicki L. Phillips, director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "The Clearinghouse will play a vital role in closing this data gap, providing more clarity around student outcomes and strengthening the link between secondary and postsecondary institutions to support greater student achievement." Many education and labor experts predict that an undereducated U.S. workforce will have dire consequences on the country's ability to compete globally.

The Clearinghouse's enrollment reporting service is used by nearly all of the nation's colleges and is updated every 30-45 days. Additionally, institutions that award 80% of U.S. college degrees participate in its degree verification service, DegreeVerify, and regularly submit updated graduation records. As a result, the Clearinghouse maintains the only nationwide collection of collegiate enrollment and degree records, covering more than 80 million students and growing. Through its educational research service, StudentTracker, the Clearinghouse enables educational institutions and researchers to study postsecondary enrollment and success by querying its database. StudentTracker, like all Clearinghouse services, is operated in full compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Additionally, all research is conducted utilizing safeguards to protect data privacy.

In 2003, the Clearinghouse extended its StudentTracker service to high schools. Today nearly 500 high school districts, representing more than 13% of U.S. high school enrollment, use StudentTracker for High Schools. Participants comprise some of the nation's largest school districts, including Chicago Public Schools and Los Angeles Unified School District. The Clearinghouse will use its grant to evolve the technology and infrastructure of StudentTracker for High Schools to enable it to meet the complex requirements of a national secondary data collection and reporting system: reliable, unbiased and comparable information that it is accessible and affordable by all secondary education providers.

According to Torres, the Clearinghouse's history in successfully delivering scalable services will be an advantage in developing the new system: "Every day we work with institutions that have varying levels of technical sophistication. Our services work just as well for colleges that have fewer than 500 students as they do for institutions with enrollments exceeding 35,000." He also cited the Clearinghouse's strong reputation among the education community as an asset. "Our unprecedented 15-year track record as a highly trusted agent to colleges, state agencies, the Department of Education, the education finance industry, and many prominent research organizations reflects our deep understanding of the special data reporting and research requirements of the educational community, which will be so important in developing a secondary system."

In the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is focused on increasing opportunity for all Americans by ensuring all students -- regardless of race or family income -- can graduate college-ready and earn a postsecondary credential with real value in the workplace.


The National Student Clearinghouse is the most trusted source for enrollment and degree verification in the U.S. A non-profit organization founded in cooperation with the higher education community in 1993, the Clearinghouse serves as a central repository and single point of contact for the collection and timely exchange of accurate, comprehensive enrollment, degree and certificate records on behalf of participating institutions.

More than 3,200 colleges, enrolling 92% of US college students, participate in the Clearinghouse. Student loan providers, employers, student credit issuers, student health insurance providers, the U.S. Department of Education, and others access the Clearinghouse's registry over 100 million times annually to conduct electronic student record verifications.

Most Clearinghouse services are provided to colleges and universities at little or no charge, enabling institutions to redistribute limited staff and budget resources to more important student service efforts. Its services are designed to work for institutions of any size, from those with fewer than 500 students to those with enrollments exceeding 35,000. Cumulatively, institutions have saved millions of dollars by participating in the Clearinghouse. The success of the Clearinghouse's customer-oriented approach was recognized in a fall 2008 survey of its institutional participants wherein 92% said they would recommend the Clearinghouse to other educational institutions.

SOURCE National Student Clearinghouse