When coding bootcamps publish job placement rates that seem too good to be true, they probably are. Prospective students should be especially wary when schools tout lofty outcomes that a third-party auditor has not verified.
Thanks to the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR), inflated coding bootcamp outcomes are becoming obsolete. Comprised of 20 schools, CIRR ensures its members track and publish verifiable graduation and employment outcomes, said Sheree Speakman, CEO of CIRR.
“CIRR is the only organization that reports outcomes by student, school and by program for 100 percent of students,” Speakman said. “The fact that we publish outcomes twice a year is our most critical distinction, as it allows prospective students to make decisions in real-time.”
“The point of CIRR is to increase accountability,” said Rachel McGalliard, VP of Operations and General Manager of The Software Guild and a CIRR board member. “A company cannot join CIRR without actively tracking its outcomes. Companies must measure every part of the outcomes chain and maintain up-to-date metrics that CIRR auditors can verify.”
The Origin of CIRR
While CIRR was the first organization to establish reporting standards for coding bootcamps, it was not the first to try. In 2015, 10 coding bootcamps formed the New Economy Skills Training Association. That organization’s work coincided with TechHire, a U.S. government initiative that sought to prepare people to join the tech industry, according to the International Business Times.
“The idea behind NESTA was to shape industry standards for outcomes reporting,” Speakman said. “But the group never agreed on standards and eventually disbanded.”
In 2017, a group of coding education leaders came together to complete the work that NESTA began. That group included leaders from The Software Guild.
“We helped form CIRR at a time when many bootcamps were claiming 99 or 100 percent job placement,” McGalliard said. “And there was no way to validate the data those companies were publishing.”
CIRR worked to bring integrity to bootcamp outcomes. “Schools that were interested in transparency came together to draft, approve, and publish reporting standards,” Speakman said. “Through that process, CIRR developed the only working standards for publishing outcomes in higher education, and it happened within one year.”
The CIRR Reporting Process
CIRR offers more than honest and audited outcomes for students. The organization ensures schools commit to exacting standards, which streamlines the decision-making process for potential students, said Rick O’Donnell, Founder and CEO of Skills Fund and Chair of the CIRR board.
“Just as public companies must follow accounting standards, be audited, and report those results to the SEC so investors can make informed decisions, school members of CIRR follow best practices for tracking, auditing, and reporting student outcomes in a way that allows students to make informed decisions, without fear that a school is hiding the devil in the details,” O’Donnell said.
Through the CIRR standard, member schools use uniform guidelines to report outcomes, said Erin Frazier, Senior Director of Operations and Marketing at The Software Guild and a member of CIRR’s standards committee.
“Before CIRR, students wouldn’t know if schools calculated their outcomes the same way,” Frazier said. “Because CIRR schools use the same guidelines, a student can make apples-to-apples comparisons between two bootcamps.”
When CIRR members calculate outcomes, they account for each student who enrolled in a program, including students who did not graduate. They also show whether people needed extra time to complete a program. Although these students did not graduate on time, McGalliard says this data affirms a bootcamp’s commitment to student success.
“When college students don’t earn a degree on time, they have to return for their fifth year,” McGalliard said. “But our instructors put in extra time for students who need a post-grad plan. We aren’t leaving them at the altar. We’re helping them graduate and enter the workforce as soon as possible.”
Graduation data is only one part of a CIRR outcomes report. Members also share job placement rates, median annual salaries, and the titles of tech jobs that graduates are hired into.
“The Software Guild’s employer network managers work with graduates to help them find a job and confirm when their employment begins,” Frazier said. This process includes a step for graduates to review and verify their employment data before The Software Guild sends outcomes to CIRR.
The Benefits of Transparent Outcomes
McGalliard considers CIRR a student-centric endeavor. “Before students enroll in a program, they should have complete visibility into its outcomes,” she said. “There should be no fine print. There should be no smoke and mirrors. If a bootcamp claims to place 99 percent of students in jobs, they should be able to validate and back up that data.”
In addition to increasing transparency for students, CIRR offers benefits to schools, Speakman said. “While there is no penalty for bootcamps that don’t report outcomes, there is real value for schools to make their outcomes public,” she said. For instance, by committing to CIRR standards, a school can build trust with students and employers by following accepted standards of reporting outcomes.
Frazier said CIRR is most helpful for coding bootcamps that already report honest outcomes. “Before CIRR, coding bootcamps that followed rigid reporting standards seemed to underperform compared to other providers,” Frazier said. “But really, other companies were tweaking their math to omit students who didn’t find jobs.”
Beyond improving transparency in the bootcamp industry, CIRR members can use their outcomes to self-assess their performance, McGalliard said. “Think of CIRR reports as a bootcamp’s health scorecard,” McGalliard said. “Our apprentices’ performance is our health. If a cohort underperformed, we can give our curriculum and instruction a checkup to find areas to improve.”
What’s Next for CIRR
As technology evolves and the bootcamp industry grows, CIRR will continue updating its standards to stay relevant and useful for students.
“Standards’ organizations must continually review and improve their guidance,” Speakman said. “CIRR recently embarked on an intensive process to update our standards and those changes are published at CIRR.org/standards. Members adopted new internal data collection processes in the spring and will report using the new standards beginning in March 2020.”
One change pertains to students who join bootcamps to expand their knowledge, not to join the tech industry. Because these students will not seek new employment, the bootcamp would not count the student in its job placement data. To account for these students, bootcamps ask students whether they will use their education to seek a job in technology after graduation.
“Students document their goals in their day-one paperwork,” Frazier said. “If a school doesn’t indicate that a student will not seek employment in day-one paperwork, then that student will be included in job placement calculations.”
Beyond updates to standards, CIRR is expanding its support for employers, investors, and workforce boards. The organization’s efforts include the development of a web portal that employers and economic development agencies can use to access a school’s past and forecasted outcomes.
“Technology never stagnates,” McGalliard said. “As it evolves, CIRR will continue to refine its standards and help serve employers in innovative ways.”
Visit the CIRR website to learn more about the benefits this education standard offers to students and employers. Plus, check out The Software Guild’s latest CIRR Report to explore our graduation and job placement rates, salary details, and more essential data for prospective students.