Evaluation of Student Achievement at the Institutional Level

As part of the Higher Education Reorganization Act of 1971, N.C. A&T became a constituent university of the University of North Carolina under one governing board. In 2014, the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) adopted both academic and non-academic metrics to ensure “continuous improvement in the consistency, efficiency and effectiveness of the operations of the University of North Carolina system, including the constituent institutions” (UNC Policy 1300.6). Of these metrics, the following are related to student success: 1) six-year graduation rate, 2) freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate, 3) degrees granted to Pell grant recipients, and 4) degree efficiency. Each constituent institution establishes annual performance goals (standard for success) for each metric. The UNC President reports annually to the BOG on the progress of each of the constituent institution's performance in comparison to its own goals and to the performance of selected peer institutions. The metrics for NC A&T are provided in Table 4.1.

In addition, the UNC BOG adopted the policy 400.1.5 “Fostering Undergraduate Student Success”, which requires each of the constituent campuses to establish a “student success and support structure” that will review and report on following areas:

a. retention, academic progression, graduation, and time to degree,

b. course scheduling for academic progression,

c. course offerings and grade requirements that may inhibit graduation, and

d. monitor academic advising to ensure time to degree.

Since implementation of this UNC policy, the university has revised several policies on academic standing, the number of withdrawals, and the course repetitions and grade forgiveness to help students’ progress in degree completion. Furthermore, the university has implemented an early alert warning system to help monitor students’ progress in order to improve retention and satisfactory degree progress that will ultimately improve student achievement. Each year the UNC BOG is presented a retention and graduation report. NCA&T's goal has been to improve these rates each year. As shown in table 4.2 below, NC A&T has been steadily making improvements over the past several years.

In addition to monitoring student achievement for the UNC BOG, NCA&T has established a university scorecard as part of A&T Preeminence 2020. Goal six of this strategic plan states that NC A&T State University will “achieve excellence in academic and operational effectiveness and efficiency”. Accordingly, several of the key metrics on the university scorecard are four- and six-year graduation rates as well as first- to second-year retention rates. Other measures include degrees awarded and students receiving national awards, scholarships, and fellowships.

The University Cabinet and NCA&T Board of Trustees review this scorecard annually. Furthermore, the university publishes and distributes the scorecard annually to the campus community, including administrators, faculty, and staff. The scorecard helps the university leadership and community monitor the university's performance in comparison to established goals and to both national peers approved by the UNC BOG (BOG Peers) and peers within the University of North Carolina system (UNC Peers) (see table 4.3).

An additional effort to monitor student success is a result of the Commission for the Review of Student Success at North Carolina A&T State University, which Chancellor Harold Martin established in 2011. The Commission was charged with developing a comprehensive plan to enhance student success that would improve student learning, academic success, and retention and graduation rates. This plan would help provide a roadmap to meeting the student success goals of the university’s strategic plan. In order both to meet the student success goals of A&T Preeminence 2020 and to monitor compliance with the policies and regulations for “Fostering Undergraduate Student Success” (UNC Policy 400.1.5), the Commission recommend creation of a permanent Committee to Foster Student Success. This committee was established in fall 2015 to implement strategies to accomplish these goals and to determine the metrics to evaluate student progress. The early work of this committee has focused on improving academic advising.

The university also monitors student achievement with indirect measures including graduates' post-graduate experiences and satisfaction with their NCA&T educations. For example, the Office of Institutional Research asks graduating seniors about their future plans in the annual Graduating Seniors Survey. The following table (Table 4.4) shows results from a recent survey indicating 20% are continuing in current job or have a full-time job in their field, and 23.7% are attending graduate/professional school. Although specific targets may not be appropriate for these metrics, the university's goal is to improve continuously.

In addition, the university collects job placement data through surveys performed by the Office of Career Services. Recently, the university also participated in a comprehensive UNC system alumni survey on the impact, benefit, and quality of their education received. The survey focused on graduates from the following years: 1993-94, 2003-04, 2008- 09, and 2012-13. Each participant was asked questions related to the quality of their education and job placement. Provided below is Figure 4.1, which compares NCA&T with other institutions in the UNC system.

Finally, as part of a collaboration between North Carolina Department of Commerce's Labor and Economic Analysis Division (which maintains the Common Follow-up System), the North Carolina Community College System, the University of North Carolina General Administration, and the North Carolina Office of Information Technology Services, a dashboard called NC TOWER was created. NC TOWER provides in-depth information on employment rates, wages, and ongoing higher education enrollment of graduates from the NCCCS and from UNC institutions including NCA&T. Figure 4.2 provides mean annual wages for baccalaureate graduates who are employed in state of North Carolina.

The NCA&T administration uses these indirect measures of student performance to provide feedback to academic programs, student services, the University Cabinet, Deans Council, and NCA&T Board of Trustees. Furthermore, these reports have been used to improve the information collected by the university about graduates. Currently, the university has been looking at using this information to build a partnership between Academic Affairs and the University Career Center to develop career pathways to help our students move from college to career success.

Evaluation of Student Achievement at the Program Level

As part of NCA&T's regular institutional effectiveness process, many academic departments assess program outcomes related to student achievement including enrollment and graduation and first-year retention rates. Program-specific data can be found on the university’s factbook webpage maintained by the Office of Institutional Research. Furthermore, several departments monitor student job placement rates, completion data, and licensure exam reports. Following are examples of the programs that use licensure exam reports.

Nursing – NCA&T’s School of Nursing and the UNC BOG monitor the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-RN pass rate of first-time writers (or test takers). This exam is used to license nurses in the United States and therefore provides a marker for preparing BSN nurses. The UNC Policy 400.1.7 establishes a goal of passing rate to be 85 percent or higher each year for first-time writers. If a campus fails to meet this goal for two consecutive years, the program must be evaluated in the areas of leadership, faculty, admissions policies, and curriculum.

As indicated in Table 4.5, NCA&T was below 85% for several years. In April 2014, failing to achieve the standard set by the UNC BOG, NCA&T’s traditional BSN program was evaluated by a team selected by UNC General Administration. The team's final recommendation was to suspend admission into the upper division of the traditional BSN program until the goal of 85% had been met. As a result, the School of Nursing has been revising policies regarding admission standards, reviewing and revising the curriculum, putting in place intervention strategies for
at-risk students, and providing students with academic coaches for NCLEX-RN test preparation. Recently, the UNC BOG reviewed data from the NCLEX-RN exam for NCA&T's May 2015 graduates, of whom 89.3 percent passed, exceeding the board’s 85 percent benchmark.

Education – The School of Education also monitors graduates' achievement in passing licensure exams. In particular, the State of North Carolina requires that candidates for licensure in Elementary Education and Special Education (General Curriculum) take Praxis II (prior to October 2014) or Pearson Foundations of Reading and General Curriculum tests (starting October 2014). Although performance goals are not established for this metric, the exam results are monitored carefully for professional accreditation and program improvement purposes.

As Table 4.6 indicates, the number of students taking tests in both elementary and special education has decreased. Over the five-year window presented, candidates in both programs have been impacted by changes to state required licensure exams. In the midst of these challenges, we are pleased to report that elementary education has maintained a minimum licensure pass rate of 99% and special education (general curriculum) has maintained a pass rate of 89% and higher.

Based on the licensure exam results, several initiatives have been put in place. One example is that faculty teaching in these specialty areas must maintain a current North Carolina Professional Teaching license and are expected to renew licenses every five years. Copies are maintained on file in the School of Education Dean’s office. Faculty have been provided and have taken advantage of professional development opportunities to take state-required licensure exams in their respective areas. Additionally, faculty are expected to remain engaged in the field of study with public school partners, which is documented annually. The School of Education also constructed a model classroom available for both faculty and candidates.