In examining concern about students’ starting and staying strong in ninth grade, New Visions pioneered the use of a visualization tool called Stock and Flow. These displays show both the “stocks”—where students are at any fixed point in time; and the “flows”—their progress or movement during high school. Looking at student progress data in these ways made it possible to see when freshmen (and other students) got into trouble, and then what happens to them subsequently.
The New Visions’ hub started by analyzing historic data for one school (Telly) to see what patterns might exist and identified seven distinct conditions characterizing student progress over the four years of high school (see figure below). The hub labeled these: on-track to graduation and college ready (blue); on-track to graduation (green); almost on-track (which they further subdivided into high, medium, and low with color gradients of yellow to orange); off-track (red); and dropping out (grey). On the far right-hand side are the end results, ranging from an Advanced Regents diploma to not graduating in four years or dropping out. Students’ status designation upon entry to high school also is indicated on the far left-hand side.
Telly’s Stock and Flow indicates that the school graduated almost 80 percent of its students with some form of a Regents diploma. While these overall results are impressive by NYCDOE and national standards, the analysis also made visible an improvement challenge for the school. The percentage of students at-risk at entry to ninth grade closely resembles the percent who were either off-track or had dropped out by the end of senior year. The flows of students down into the off-track group gradually increased over time and the flows back up were virtually non-existent. So, students who were strong when they entered Telly did fine, but weaker students did not. In essence, predictable failures were visible in the data at entry to ninth grade, but because this had not been recognized early on, little was being done to close the performance gap for those most in need.