Making Improvements to Stackable Credential Pipelines

A Toolkit on Using Data to Drive Improvement in Ohio Postsecondary Institutions

by Lindsay Daugherty

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Stackable credential programs are designed to make it easier for students to earn multiple postsecondary certificates or degrees in a field as they advance in their careers. To examine the stacking of credentials in Ohio and inform ongoing efforts to scale stackable credential programs, the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the RAND Corporation formed a research partnership. In May 2020, RAND released Stacking Educational Credentials in Ohio: Pathways Through Postsecondary Education in Health Care, Manufacturing and Engineering Technology, and Information Technology, a report that documented how students were moving through stackable credential pipelines in Ohio postsecondary institutions between 2005 and 2015. This toolkit is intended to be a companion document to that report, providing a how-to guide for practitioners who are overseeing stackable credential programs to identify issues in their stackable credential pipelines and make data-driven improvements. Using three stackable credential pipeline issues identified in the 2020 report—i.e., improving rates of stacking for Black students and adult learners, increasing stacking opportunities among students who earn a certificate at an Ohio Technical Center, and reducing excess credit hours—the toolkit illustrates how practitioners can use a four-step process to (1) take high-level statewide findings and collect additional evidence to explore these issues in their context, (2) narrow in on specific levers for change, (3) identify improvements and a framework for assessing them, and (4) carry out rapid cycles of improvement.

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This research was sponsored by the ECMC Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation tool series. RAND tools may include models, databases, calculators, computer code, GIS mapping tools, practitioner guidelines, web applications, and various toolkits. All RAND tools undergo rigorous peer review to ensure both high data standards and appropriate methodology in keeping with RAND's commitment to quality and objectivity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.