How StudentTracker for High Schools Matches Students

StudentTracker for High Schools matches high school graduates to their postsecondary enrollment and degree outcomes using two datasets:

  • High School Diploma Data: High schools generally submit their graduates’ data between May and September each year.
  • College and University Enrollment and Degree Data: College and universities submit their data three to four times per term.

The difference in data submission cycles between high schools and colleges/universities means there is no clearly defined time when the Clearinghouse has all postsecondary data for any given period (e.g., fall terms).

Matching Algorithm

StudentTracker for High Schools uses a proprietary algorithm to match students across all of their postsecondary enrollments. The algorithm utilizes a hierarchy for reviewing and matching data points that allows it to overcome imperfect data submissions.

Examples of imperfect data include a college or university hyphenating the student’s last name (Smith-Richards) and a high school requesting information for a student without the hyphen (Smith Richards). Another common example is family surnames versus married surnames (Chris Smith vs. Chris Smith-Richards or Chris Richards).

In cases where the algorithm cannot determine an exact match between critical data points, StudentTracker for High Schools utilizes other important data points to verify or corroborate a potential match. Typos, variations in how a name is spelled or reported, swapping numbers within a date, and other errors will reduce the likelihood of a match being made.

The data critical to ensuring a match between a student’s records are:

  • First name (required)
  • Last name (required)
  • Middle name or initial
  • Date of birth or DOB (required)

It is very important that the above data elements are as accurate as possible and formatted appropriately for the StudentTracker application. First name, last name, and date of birth are all required data elements. Records without these data points cannot be matched.

In a small number of cases, other data elements can be helpful in verifying a match. These elements may include high school ACT code, enrollment history, and geographical location.

  • Data elements that will not produce or verify a match are:
  • Student ID
  • Social Security number
  • Student Information System (SIS) generated number
  • District or state ID
  • School NCES or other assigned code

Missing Student Data

Students may not be reported through StudentTracker for a number of reasons. The most common reason why an individual student may not be reported in the Student Detail Report is because he or she blocked one or more of their records from a college or university they attended. If the student places a block on reporting their information to the Clearinghouse, the Clearinghouse is obligated by law to withhold the information until the student elects to unblock it. The Clearinghouse is also prohibited from confirming if a student record has been removed due to a FERPA block. Blocked student records will be included in the tables, charts, and graphs where student anonymity is maintained (e.g. “Percent of Students Enrolled in College the Fall Immediately after High School”).

Other reasons individual student records may be unreported are:

  • The student’s graduation date falls after August 15th of the calendar year.
  • The college or university where the student is enrolled does not report data to the Clearinghouse (e.g. U.S. service academies).
  • The college or university where the student is enrolled missed the submission deadline for their enrollment information to be included in your reports. In this case, the student will be present on the next effective date.
  • Critical information used to match students may be missing altogether or reported differently between the college/university and the high school so a match cannot be determined.

If a student who was missing from a previous report is now present in the report, the student may have released a block or hold on their record at the postsecondary level. While the student would have been included in aggregate reporting, they would have been missing from detail-level reporting.

The StudentTracker for High Schools development team constantly looks for ways to improve the performance of StudentTracker for High Schools. As we make improvements, you may see individual student records reported back to you that were previously missing.

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