Thursday, June 19, 2014

TRiO Student Support Services Annual Performance Report-

How to document and report the use of required services on the Student Support Services Program 2013-2014 APR
This week’s blog is geared toward alleviating some of the heavy reporting burden shouldered by TRiO Student Support Services Programs. This information will also give an insight into the usage of AccuTrack/AccuSQL’s Session Questionnaire feature that will be useful for all educational programs and departments. While the Session Questionnaire is in the current 2014 version of AccuTrack/AccuSQL, the summary report for this feature which contains a distinct count of students will be available in the 2015 AccuTrack/AccuSQL software. This new version is scheduled for release in October 2014 which is just in time for the 2013-2014 APR submission.
Let’s first cover a little history concerning Annual Performance Reports (APR) in TRiO Student Support Services Programs (SSSP) for the sake of those non-TRiO people or for people new to TRiO. Until about three years ago, the Department of Education (ED) only required enrollment type data in their APRs. This included when the student entered the institution, when they became eligible for the program and began using services, their GPA, their enrollment type, funds they received from both the program and institution, and if they persisted on to a bachelor degree. At that time, software like AccuTrack/AccuSQL were used in TRiO SSSPs as traffic managers which helped staff shift their time spent on record keeping to more time spent with the students. While much of the distribution of grant aid was based on participation data gathered by AccuTrack/AccuSQL, not much of this data was used directly in the APR. At least not until the ED decided they wanted more information about required services.
According to the ED, “[a]ll SSS projects must provide: academic tutoring, advice and assistance in postsecondary course selection, assist student with information on both the full range of student financial aid programs, benefits and resources for locating public and private scholarships; and assistance in completing financial aid applications. Education or counseling services designed to improve the financial and economic literacy and assist students in applying for admission to graduate and professional programs; and assist students enrolled in two-­year institutions and applying for admission to, and obtaining financial assistance for enrollment in four­-year programs.” It was not until about three years ago that the ED created a section in the APR requesting data on the provision of required services. For programs that used paper and pencil tracking systems for participation, this addition to the APR presented a huge challenge. Even for programs that used proprietary software for the APR, entering the data was very time consuming. Even for the programs who used AccuTrack/AccuSQL to track participation in regards to required services, extracting the data and then compiling it into the structure requested by the ED was still quite the challenge.
Essentially, the ED wanted to know the distinct number of students who not only received the above mentioned required services, but they also wanted the distinct number of students who were referred to outside providers for each of the services. Here is a sample table from the 2012-2013 APR instructions:image
One of the more difficult aspects of collecting this data was that in one session with a student, the staff would often provide several of the services. Using AccuTrack/AccuSQL, many programs used the Service Types feature to capture the provision of required services however, only one service could be attached to a session record. Then, in version 10 of AccuTrack/AccuSQL, the programmers at Engineerica added a new feature called the Session Questionnaire. This feature was designed to allow tutors and staff members to fill out questions about their interactions with students. For example, the questionnaire might ask a tutor if the student was prepared for the tutoring session or if they had to refer the student to another tutor. For TRiO SSS programs, this questionnaire is the answer for easily capturing the provision of required services even when more than one service was provided during a session. Let me demonstrate the set-up needed to capture and report the required services using AccuTrack/AccuSQL’s Session Questionnaire feature. To begin, let’s rewrite the required services in question form. Here is a sample of the first two services in question form:
  • Did the program provide academic tutoring to the participant?

  • Did the program refer the participant to another provider for academic tutoring?

  • Did the program provide advice and assistance in post-secondary course selection to the participant?

  • Did the program refer the participant to another provider for advice and assistance in post-secondary course selection?


All of the questions are included in this document for download.
(If your staff is comfortable with abbreviated versions of these questions, I suggest just using keywords like “Academic Tutoring Offered” and “Academic Tutoring Referred” rather than these complete sentences. You will see in the subsequent examples, reading through all of the questions can be difficult when trying to answer the questionnaire quickly.)
Now let’s add these questions to the Session Questionnaire. From the System Administrative screen, choose “Session Log”.
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From there choose “Session Questionnaire Setup”.
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Using the “Add” button, paste the required services questions into the “Question” field.
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(Notice how only a portion of the question is displayed in the upper table. The entire is question is used even though only a portion is visible.)
Be sure to set the question as active but not required. This will save staff members’ time when completing the questionnaire.
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Then use the accompanying “Answer” field to create a “Yes” and “No” answer. How you weight these answers is not important. What is important is offering both a “Yes” and “No” choice so staff members can change their answer if needed.
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Once all of the questions have been added, return to the System Administrative screen and choose “Session Log”.
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Choose sessions where the activity or the session log demonstrates the provision or referral for required services to the student. For example, we will choose the session log for the student named “Michelle Dee” and the activity “Educational Plan”.
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The comments for this session state that the student was given help with choosing classes but was not also referred to another provider for more assistance with choosing classes.
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For this log, we will use the “Session Questionnaire” button and choose “Yes” only for the question pertaining to the provision of “advice and assistance in post-secondary course selection” and then choose “Save and Close”.
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Have staff members review the comments and types of logs within the TRiO SSSP reporting period which began on September 1st, 2013 and ends August 31st, 2014. Session logs can be easily filtered for this period.
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Staff members can also filter for their sessions using the “Only show this Tutor” filter.
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Once staff members have reviewed all of their logs and answered the Session Questionnaire for appropriate logs, now you are ready to run a report to export this data and prepare it for the APR. Choose “Session Log” from the System Administrative screen.
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Choose the “Reports” link within the Session Log administrative screen and choose “Session Questionnaire Summary”.
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Again, filter for the SSSP reporting period.
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Then choose “Export Data”.
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Now choose “Excel Direct”.
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The following is a sample report. The column you are most interested in is the Dcount column. This contains the number of distinct students who were provided or referred the required services.
(Remember, the Dcount column will only show in the AccuTrack/AccuSQL version 2015 which will release in October. If you are currently beta testing AccuTrack/AccuSQL, the Dcount column should be included in this report.)
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Using the Session Questionnaire summary report, you are now able to complete the APR section for Project Required Services. Not only are the results more accurate, they are backed by specific, well described sessions with students.
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Now that your questions are setup and your staff is familiar with the process, the Session Questionnaire can be completed as sessions occur leaving only the running of the summary report left to do for next year’s APR.
If you would like help setting up the questions, training staff to recognize provisional sessions, and running the summary report, please take a look at our implementation packages available for TRiO programs. An implementation package for capturing the required services on your next APR can be provided online and will usually take 2-3 hours depending on the size and complexity of your program. The implementation would include:
  • Designing and adding of questions to the Session Questionnaire

  • Training of staff members in recognizing and writing session comments to support the provision of services

  • Training of staff members in completing the questionnaire for appropriate logs

  • Creation of reports to assist staff members in locating missing records

  • Merging distinct counts from other activities in AccuTrack/AccuSQL ei: Financial Literacy Workshops, Advising Workshops, etc.

I would like to conclude this blog entry with a special thank you to all of the wonderful people who are part of the TRiO family. It is because of your hard work and dedication that higher education is not only more available to underrepresented people, but is also more attainable!

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