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DoD Schools to Track Former Students Progress

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Sept. 15, 1999 – Grades and test scores aren't the only measures of a school educational program. Students' success in later endeavors must count for something, too.

An interest in how students fare after they graduate or transfer recently led the Department of Defense Education Activity to announce plans to research the question.

"We want to be able to answer the question, 'Is our educational program challenging enough to make kids successful?'" DoDEA Interim Director Ray Tolleson said. "We're trying to figure out how well our kids do when they go into postgraduate work or college in comparison to other students at that level. We're trying to capture not only where these students go, but also how well they do once they get there."

Nearly 61 percent of students graduating from DoD schools in 1998 planned to attend a four-year college or university, according to education activity officials. Until now, though, no system has tracked the graduates' life success, Tolleson said.

Generally, activity officials said, the two-part study will track graduates' progress over their succeeding four years and look at students who transfer out to determine how successful they are in other schools.

The study of DoDEA graduates began with a survey of all graduating members of the Class of 1999. The contractor will attempt to follow the graduates and collect data on their career paths, such as whether they attend college, join the work force or enter the military, DoDEA officials said. Performance measures will include college grades and success in job training and military service. The first data from this part of the survey will be available in March 2000, they said.

In the study of transfer students, the contractor will survey all fourth-, eighth- and 11th-graders within two years of their departure. Based on an annual 10-percent rate of student transfers, activity officials estimate the study will involve 1,000 fourth-graders, 700 eighth-graders and 400 11th-graders. Research will include data on students' academic standing and proficiency, including grades, course placement and standardized-test scores.

The information will be made available to parents and educators to help them make future decisions on course offerings and programs, Tolleson said.

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