Rural school district wields predictive analytics to open doors for first generation college students

The graduation and college prospects of students in Sampson County (NC) Schools are looking up with the help of predictive analytics. Image by Flicker user Gerry Dincher
The graduation and college prospects of students in Sampson County (NC) Schools are looking up with the help of predictive analytics. Image by Flicker user Gerry Dincher

This predictive analytics post continues a blog series that highlights education leaders sharing successes and challenges of using data to drive school improvement.

Sampson County Schools is a small rural school district in southeastern North Carolina. While overall graduation rates in the county were improving, one school wanted to do more.  Dr. Theresa Melenas wanted to also increase the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses (AP) and the number of high school graduates in her district that go on to attend college.  She knew her students had potential.  She just needed help to unlock it.  Predictive analytics helped to make this a reality.

As noted in my previous blog on predictive analytics, student projection data  shows the probability of a student’s likelihood of proficiency on a specific assessment.  This information can be used to help with course placement, interventions and enrichment for students. As both the principal of a low-performing school and the district coordinator of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), Dr. Melenas saw an opportunity to use this data to move the needle with underrepresented groups in advanced level courses.

Beginning with middle school students, Dr. Melenas worked with principals and teachers to better understand how predictive analytics can help with the overall goal of graduation and college readiness.  They began early interventions and early exposure to more rigorous coursework, and identified the students most likely to benefit from the AVID program and rise to the challenge of high school AP courses.

Dr. Melenas and her team then worked to create a school schedule that would offer opportunities for peer tutoring, as well as support for students transitioning into these pre-AP courses.  “It takes all of us to help ensure the success of every student in this program. Having the data helps us identify students, provide interventions and support and help us set goals.  Once students are in the program, we have to foster relationships and provide professional development for our teachers so that they can provide the best academic environment for students.”

Though the journey was not easy, Dr. Melenas and her team graduated their first cohort of students involved since middle school this past year.  The students in AVID not only had a 100% graduation rate, but also had 100% acceptance into four year post-secondary opportunities.  The small rural school had a senior total of $4,307,000 in scholarships, including full scholarships for two AVID students to attend prestigious universities in North Carolina.

Predictive analytics can help school leaders better help our students.  Dr. Melenas guided her faculty to see data to shine a light on student potential.  As you begin a new semester, how can data be a flashlight to your classroom, school, and district?


About Author

Jennifer Bell

Customer Account Executive

Hello! I’m Jennifer Bell. I’m a wife, mother of four, and avid runner who loves to laugh! I am a NC Teaching Fellows graduate of Meredith College and am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. Before coming to SAS I served the public schools of North Carolina as a National Board Certified teacher and data coach for 15 years. As an education nerd and passionate teacher at heart, my role at SAS as an education specialist is a perfect fit. Working with schools, districts and states to use data to drive school improvement and improve student outcomes allows me to continue to champion every student.

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