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  Meaningful, Measurable Goals

National CrossTalk Fall 1999
News Editorial Other Voices Interview

Making the Grade

Provided a context for discussing higher education

By Stan Jones
Stan Jones is Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education.

I APPLAUD THE EFFORTS of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education with their recently released Measuring Up 2000 report. This first state-by-state report card on higher edu-cation will assist the nation and states with assessing and addressing critical areas of providing stu-dents the preparation needed to achieve, succeed and graduate from colleges that are affordable and effective in producing an educated citizenry.

A bright future for the nation requires a well-educated workforce, particularly one with postsec-ondary education. Our continued transformation into a wired global economy demands that we educate our students to succeed in a highly competitive market. As such, the economic climate of our states will be the beneficiaries of our investment.

As the Commissioner for Higher Education in Indiana, I have been intent on maintaining a high level of collaboration with our state’s K–12 education system. Such coordination is vital for establish-ing high academic standards that not only prepare students for successful completion of high school, but also provide students with the necessary preparation for college acceptance and the rig-ors of college academic work.

Another vital component for educational improvement on a system-wide level is through a state’s legislation. In Indiana, our governor and state legislators have been deeply involved in the development of higher education initiatives. Such initiatives set high standards and assessments, provide the foundation for a more accountable education system where all of the state’s education policies and programs are coordinated, and articulate a clear set of performance goals, measures and expectations.

For several states, including Indiana, the report card has been timely in relation to these recent educational reform policies. The basic dialogue within our state has revolved around the six areas addressed within the Measuring Up 2000 report. The report verifies that we are on the right track. It also provides an additional indicator of progress to a state’s current or developing assessment and accountability system.

Although there will be dissention concerning the types of indicators used within each core area, and the interpretation of the supporting statistics, one important aspect of the report cannot be overlooked: It has provided a national as well as a state-level context for discussing higher educa-tion. People now are talking more and more about the success and challenges within our colleges and universities.

A heightened public awareness will provide increased opportunities to pursue improvement in areas vital to the success of our students. Measuring Up 2000 provides a unique opportunity to assess our current state of higher education, indicating areas of success as well as areas needing improvement.

Looking toward the next report cards (to be released in 2002 and 2004), I offer the following recommendations to assist states in achieving successful progress. First, the current release effective-ly set the goal high in terms of the expectations for earning an A grade. I recommend maintaining this goal in order to provide states a fair opportunity to assess and demonstrate progress. I would also like to encourage the researchers to increase efforts in collecting the most recent statistics on the defined indicators. With the current report card, Indiana’s grades could not reflect the recent progress, since many of the initiatives recently instituted were not reflected in the evaluation. Finally, I would suggest that the next reports provide a broader picture of higher education by including an assessment of graduate education.

States such as Indiana will continue to work hard toward building a more educated workforce by better preparing students for college, helping them succeed once they get there, and by provid-ing increased opportunities for continued education and training throughout their lives. So, keep the spotlight on the nation’s colleges and universities—and look for more progress in the future.

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