Starfish to be implemented across campus

Starfish Retention Solutions has been expanded from its trial run to include all courses at Youngstown State University.

Starfish is an early warning sign system used by instructors, peer mentors and other faculty to identify obstacles in the way of student success. The system contains five “flags,” or notifications, to monitor student progress.

In the second week of the semester, instructors are asked to notify the Center for Student Progress of students’ attendance.

In week five, teachers can then identify if a student is showing low performance. A teacher can notify the CSP at any time about student improvement.

Jonelle Beatrice, director of the CSP, said retention is critical for freshmen and sophomores.

“We tend to lose a lot of students in that area. Rather infrequently, we’ll lose juniors and seniors primarily for other reasons,” Beatrice said. “We kind of do a double follow-up with all of our freshmen and all of our sophomores.”

According to the YSU Office of Institutional Research and Policy Analysis, the Starfish software resulted in improvements to GPA and credit hours completed.

The GPA for freshmen in 2011 showed a cumulative of 2.39; in 2012, it had increased to 2.46. In addition, the percentage of credit hours earned out of attempted hours was 75.98 percent in 2011, and it increased to 80.73 percent for fall 2012.

In 2012, the analysis also showed that classes with Starfish seemed to show higher grade completion than those that did not.

The completion rate in the Psychology 1560 courses without Starfish had a rate of 58.5 percent, while Psychology 1560 courses with Starfish had an increased completion rate of 63.7 percent.

Mike Poljak, a senior and first-year peer mentor at the CSP, said Starfish helps a student understand his status in a class.

“Starfish gives students a reality check. It lets them know that they aren’t doing well now, but there is time to improve and campus resources to assist your improvement.” Poljak said.

Beatrice said 34 percent of YSU’s instructors are using Starfish. But with the results soon to be published in “Starfish Retention System: Early Indicators of Success,” the CSP will use the data to bring in more faculty members to join the retention system.

Frank Bosso, a professor of exercise sciences, said Starfish is another way to encourage his students to seek assistance.

“I think it has a lot of potential,” Bosso said. “On the syllabus, I talk about … the Center for Student Progress, and I direct them there. … I think sometimes they’re a little hesitant to go there no matter what I say, but I think when they get that feedback from the Center [for] Student Progress, because that’s what Starfish does. … It might give [them] a little more initiative to go.”

Above all, Beatrice said she hopes this system will increase “our student progression in graduation rates.”

“That’s why we’re here; we want to see students succeed,” she said.

Beatrice added that students should know the CSP is using the system to support them — and not to put them down.

“I want students to understand that this is a system, because we care about them. Not because we’re calling them out for any reason. We’re reaching out; we’re not calling out,” she said.