Thursday, February 4, 2010

Stats in progress

This graph shows fall quarter student attendance at Cabrini Connections from 2000 through 2009. Average attendance for the decade was 80.1%. The break you see is for the week of Thanksgiving when there is no tutoring.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan to create more charts like this to illustrate our impact. Visit Chicago Youth Programs for a good example of tracking outcomes. Cabrini Connections keeps data on student and volunteer attendance and retention, grades, post-secondary education plans, and demographic information like age, gender, and ethnicity. We tell stories about our program all the time to emphasize its importance, but if we can back those stories up with data to demonstrate impact and improvement, we can make a better case to donors.

These charts are also internally valuable. In the graph above, you can see a downward trend from the first week (91%) to the last week (76%). Why does attendance decrease over the course of fall quarter? What can Cabrini Connections and other tutor/mentor programs do to reverse this trend? These are questions I want to begin a dialogue around. A lot of research has been done regarding volunteer retention from year to year, but what about student retention from week to week? If you have any thoughts on this matter, or if you can connect me to people asking similar questions, please post a comment. Thank you!

UPDATE: Yesterday I presented fall quarter student attendance for the 2000s. Today I present volunteer attendance (below). Average attendance for the decade was 77.0% and, as with students, you can see a downward trend over the course of the quarter. One reason this may occur is because volunteers are not fully prepared. Their involvement in our program includes coaching, training, and peer mentoring, but it also involves the learning which a volunteer can do on his or her own to build skills as a tutor/mentor.

However, despite this postulation, this trend could largely be the result of a rotation in a small percentage of our volunteer base. Volunteers who fall out in the first few weeks and months could bring these numbers down. I suspect that volunteers enrolled in our program for at least three, six, or 12 months have better overall attendance numbers. I will include test this hypothesis in future analyses.


  1. Is this students, or volunteers, or both? I think that one thing this represents is that many of the people joining the program in September may not be prepared for the reality and responsibility of what is expected, and how difficult it is.

    The other thing is that we expect most volunteers to miss four sessions in a year for business reasons, vacations and illness. This would not show up in the first couple of weeks worth of attendance, but would show up during the attendance for the first 12 weeks. When you look at the whole year with these charts, we hope this evens out at about 75-80 percent attending each week.

    It might be good to look at this in smaller slices, such as attendance of returning students/volunteers (who were part of the previous year's program) and new students/volunteers who just joined. I'm not sure what the chart would show, but the more we can collect and look at this info, and compare it from year to year, and with other programs doing similar work, the more we can innovate ways to build on what works, and try to improve what seems not to be working as well as we'd like.

  2. This is for students. I will update for clarity. I'm working on volunteers now and I will look into cross-referencing our "years in the program" statistics with these attendance numbers.