Call out your numbers - The power of measurement

Together, we can change this data story…

Together, we can change this data story…

“Call out your numbers,” directed Michael McAfee, President and CEO of Policy Link. As leader of a national research and action institute striving to improve racial and economic equity, his words resonate deeply with the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM). SAM works to advance economic mobility, anchored in academic achievement… county-wide… cradle to career.  

“When SAM first formed in 2013, we knew we could not change what we did not measure. Spartanburg needed its numbers. As our work produces rich data, our task is sharing those data, building collective impact efforts, and improving outcomes for our community” says SAM Executive Director, Dr. John Stockwell.

McAfee’s challenge also meant “dig deeper“ and “be public.” SAM does just that.  Most recently, sharing never before seen data surrounding the post-secondary pathways Spartanburg County students have followed.

SAM commissioned a study from the National Student Clearinghouse, reports from which are providing vital data regarding post-secondary enrollment, persistence, and completion for Spartanburg County graduates dating back to the graduating class of 2013.  

Of Spartanburg County’s high school graduates enrolling in some form of post-secondary study, almost 80% are persisting from their freshman to sophomore years.  National data links persistence with high completion rates.

“This is a strong indication that something positive is happening in our schools. For students starting the post-secondary journey, they are doing so equipped to keep moving forward,” said Stockwell.

The study also shows us where Spartanburg County graduates are enrolling. The top 3 schools for post-secondary enrollees is another bright spot. Spartanburg Community College, USC Upstate, and Spartanburg Methodist College have garnered the largest number of the County’s high school graduates. SAM’s existing partnership with these schools and a wide network of partners in local support agencies can be readily engaged in action to address achievement disparities demonstrated by the data.

Where students have indicated an intent to go on to college at a rate of about 80% county-wide, the reality is that only 62% are actually enrolling. That difference, known as “Summer Melt,” serves as a call to action.  County-wide melt in 2013 was at 8.5% while melt in 2017 was 17%. Translating percentages into lives impacted is the deeper story. That means 239 students in 2013, 519 students in 2017, and over the five year study period, 1,922 students actually told someone they intended to go to college...but did not actually enroll.

Reasons for the melt vary, another area of SAM research. However, as analysis continues, school leaders both in high schools and colleges are responding to the data, brainstorming how to change the story for 2019 high school grads who have yet to turn their tassels.

As Director of College and Career Readiness at SAM, Meghan Smith, is leading the work to respond to these new data. She and Beth Thompson, SAM’s Director of Continuous Improvement, have been presenting reports to school district leaders, high school principals and counselors across the County.  

“Spartanburg’s education leaders are committed to using this information to improve enrollment and reduce melt,” said Smith. “These are numbers they’ve never had access to before. It’s been inspiring to see their passion for action as we’ve presented the data.”

Efforts to share data with faith leaders and new community partners is being led by Savannah Ray, SAM’s Director of Educational Engagement and Partnerships. The response has been positive.

“We know that school leaders are not solely responsible for taking action. Now that we have these reports, we continue to seek opportunities to share these vital data with all willing to plan action to make a difference,” Ray explained.

SAM is driven by numbers because each data point represents an individual student. SAM engages its partners to advance academic achievement and reduce disparity gaps. Sharing new data, the process of “calling out our numbers,” provides direction for our next steps -  and becomes a county-wide call to action.

For more information or to schedule a review of the National Student Clearinghouse data, please contact Meghan Smith at 864-573-5804 ext. 136  or email