In accordance with the University's mission to "provide a superior liberal education" and to "prepare future members of the learned professions for lives of skilled and ethical service," Duke is committed to an array of student achievement goals.
Duke evaluates student achievement in a number of ways, using measures of student success including graduation rates and retention data, job placement, and results of state and national licensure examinations. This information is used both by individual schools and by the overall institution as a component of Duke's overall assessment of student quality and achievement.
Duke tracks retention and graduation rates of undergraduate students, providing six-year graduation rates as required for federal reporting, and a freshman-to-sophomore-year retention rate. Six year graduation rates have remained at either 94 or 95 percent for the past eight years, and retention rates have consistently been in the 97 percent range. Graduation rates are also tracked by ethnic category. These data, as well as other enrollment data, are available on the web site of the Office of Institutional Research. These data also appear on the National Center for Education Statistics' IPEDS Data Center.
Academic deans and advisors closely monitor retention and progress toward degree for all undergraduate students, and the undergraduate continuation process is a critical component in this monitoring effort. Students are required to complete a specified number of courses successfully each semester, as well as cumulatively, ensuring that they maintain progress toward their degree. Undergraduate students' progress to degree is tracked by their academic deans and advisors each semester through the Academic Advising Reports available to students, deans and advisors in Duke's student information system.
If a student shows signs of falling behind, academic deans, advisors, and departmental personnel intervene to assist the student in accessing resources designed to help him or her maintain progress in individual courses, as well as in the overall pursuit of a degree. Warning signs include, but are not limited to, falling short of the required specified number of courses. Another example of a warning sign is lack of progress towards satisfactory completion of an in-progress course. Faculty are required to report midterm grades for all first-year undergraduates, regardless of the grade, and for all upper-class students earning a D or below at midterm. One of the resources designed to assist at-risk students, and all undergraduate students, in progressing through courses and degrees is the Academic Resource Center, an office that works with individual students to provide study skills and time management training, tutoring assistance and other assistance designed to assist in students' academic endeavors.
In a case in which a student is earning D or below in an in-progress course or courses, the student’s advisor meets with the student to discuss reasons for this performance and to determine strategies for improvement. In the case of undeclared students, advisors then complete the Assessment Form for Midterm Grades and submit that form to the Academic Advising Center, where the student’s pre-major dean may take additional action.
The Graduate School tracks both completion rates and time-to-degree statistics for individual departments, and for the entire school, and uses these data to adjust policies and procedures where needed.
The professional schools also monitor students' progress towards degrees and eventual completion of those degrees, with all schools showing a high percentage of retention and graduation. As an example, among the professional schools, the School of Medicine takes a series of steps to ensure student progress and to evaluate success. In addition to collecting grades, the school assigns each class to a Promotions Committee, which meets periodically during the academic year to review the academic progress of each student. The medical school also requires that students in the MD program complete a final comprehensive examination (outside of the required clinical clerkships) to assess students' clinical skills and diagnostic reasoning skills. There is also a required assessment week at the end of the second year.
At the undergraduate level, the Career Center, a unit within the Division of Student Affairs, tracks job placement rates via the Senior Exit Survey. Duke offers the assistance of several academic deans with special expertise in graduate and professional school issues; these pre-professional advising programs also keep track of graduate and professional school acceptances among their advising cohorts.
The Graduate School and professional schools also track and report on job placement. The Graduate School conducts placement rate surveys of its Ph.D. graduates in academic positions. At the professional school level, the Fuqua School of Business tracks graduates' job placements in an annual Employment Report, listing placement rates, median salaries, and other pertinent career information. Another example at the professional school level is the Law School, which also tracks career placements and posts data on these placements on its web site.
The professional schools whose graduates must pass licensure examinations keep track of how those graduates perform on those exams and use these results as one measure of educational outcome performance.
The Nursing School, for example, reports data on its graduates' performance on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX). Duke’s three year average pass rate on the NCLEX for BSN graduates from 2011-2013 is 98%. This compares with a national pass rate for that time period of 87% and a statewide rate of 83%.