Academic Quality Assurance Measures
Only 14 percent of students starting in community colleges transfer to four-year schools and earn a Bachelor’s degree within six years of entry. Even in states with the best track records, only about one in five community college students transfer and graduate within six years of enrolling.
Interstate Passport has several components in place – described below – to assure quality and oversight of the program. Of utmost importance is to be able to measure the progress of Passport students and compare that progress to non-Passport earners and native students across the program. The data will indicate if sending institutions are preparing their students well and if earning a Passport motivates more students to degree completion. Key to gauging the success of this program’s innovative approach to college transfer are the quality assurance measures that are integral to it.
Minimum Grade of C or Better
To earn a Passport, students must achieve a minimum grade of C or its equivalent in all courses in the Passport Block. Many institutions’ general education requirements are the same as their Passport Block requirements. However, because of this minimum grade level requirement, not all students who meet the GE requirements at such an institution will also earn the Passport.
Academic Progress Tracking
The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) serves as the central data repository of data for Interstate Passport Network members. Passport institutions submit data to NSC on students who earn a Passport each term and de-identified student data on the academic progress of Passport students. The Clearinghouse reports the total number of Passports earned and tracks and reports the academic progress of Passport students through the Academic Progress Tracking service.
NSC produces and delivers individual reports to Network member institutions about the academic progress of their former Passport earners who transferred to another Network institution. These reports may be used in the institution’s continuous improvement efforts.
NSC also produces a composite report for the Passport Review Board—the policy-making body for Interstate Passport—so that the Board can monitor and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the Interstate Passport program.
Pilot Project: Mapping Assignments to Learning Outcomes
The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) conducted a grant-funded mapping exercise across six institutions — two institutions in each of three Western states that were not involved in the original development of the Passport Learning Outcomes (CO, NM, MT). Faculty in those states exchanged and evaluated both critical assignments intended to demonstrate achievement of PLOs and de-identified student work products responding to those assignments in order to improve consistency across institutions, sectors, and states.
Passport Review Board
The Passport Review Board (PRB) consists of one member from each participating state, as well as transfer, learning outcomes, and assessment experts. The PRB meets in person at least once annually and electronically as needed. It reviews the results of all data analyses from NSC, as well as any issues brought forth by a state or institution. The PRB will be able to require an institution to make changes, if needed, or to give up its Passport status if its students are not being well-served.
Rutgers University’s Education and Employment Research Center is conducting a robust, multi-year evaluation of the outcomes for Passport students, including persistence, GPA, graduation rate, and time to degree. The evaluation is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s First in the World grant.
Each of these approaches provides actionable data to the sending and receiving colleges and universities to inform institutional improvement, as well as to the Passport Review Board to improve the Passport itself. Taken together, these measures provide a robust system supporting the academic quality of the Passport at every institution that offers it, and reassure receiving institutions that Passport students will be well-prepared to succeed after transfer.