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Indiana Using Data to Build Better Transcripts, College Transitions

Washington, D.C.

Indiana's efforts to give students more control over their academic transcripts may prove a boon for researchers and school reformers, too.

The state's eTranscipt initiative, launched in 2005 and now funded by state law, aims to proide high school seniors and college students with electronic academic records that can follow them to colleges across the country. But over time, the project is evolving into a hub for high schools, colleges, and credentialling agencies to understand and improve the K-12 to postsecondary transition.

Ken Sauer, a senior associate and chief academic officer of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, estimates the system sends some 200,000 free transcripts nationwide each year.

"Not only is it helpful for students to be admitted to college, but it helps them determine their eligibility for state financial aid," he said during a discussion at the National Center for Education Statistics' annual data conference.

In addition to the standard academic transcript, the state has been working to develop supplemental measures that will include students' high school apprenticeships, internships, and other work beyond classes. 

"We want to get a handle on how we can provide a supplement or a portfolio which would describe not only the student's experiences, skills and competencies, but also provide evidence of this," he said.

Yet the state is also able to use the data—now expanding to all secondary students—to study high school and college trends, and provide feedback reports to high schools and colleges alike about students' transitions in higher education.

"You can really get down to the granular level, with courses and grades," he said. "It's incredible data, when you think about that; you can analyze students' progress from the start of their high school career." 

Connecting to Credentials

Last year, the state also expanded the project with an online "credential registry." The site allows students to take interest and aptitude tests like CareerExplorer or YouScience, and find out about the requirements for different careers.

Students can compare costs, time, and other aspects of public, private, and nonprofit apprenticeship, credential, or licensing programs in the state. The state also plans to collect data from the site to provide feedback to the programs and employers.

"One of the things employers are realizing is they could really do a better job detailing the competencies that they want to see in new hires," Sauer said. "I really think it has the potential to be transformative."

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