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  Measuring Up 2000 Earns National Attention
  Questions and Answers about Measuring Up 2000
  How We Grade
  Measuring Up 2000 is Released at the National Press Club
  Important Questions
  Addressing Student Learning
  How Does Measuring Up 2000 Measure Up?
  Focusing Public Attention
  Making the Grade
  Sobering Up in 2001
  A Gift for Our Nation
  A Good “First Draft”
  A Herculean Effort
  A Useful Tool
  A Fair Comparison
  Meaningful, Measurable Goals

National CrossTalk Fall 1999
News Editorial Other Voices Interview



By William Trombley, Senior Editor

SEVERAL STATES are preparing to use Measuring Up 2000, the 50-state higher education “report card” published by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education last fall, as part of their efforts to press for policy changes, interviews with higher education officials in a dozen states indicate.

“We are rather shamelessly exploiting the report card for our own purposes,” said Gordon K. Davies, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. “The performance indicators in the report card are very close to those we are using.”

Davies hopes that Measuring Up 2000 will help the council devise strategies to increase the number of Kentuckians who pursue education beyond high school, and to begin to think about postsecondary educa-tional opportunities as a whole, not just in terms of traditional two-year and four-year degrees.

In Oklahoma, state officials plan to use Measuring Up to further the goals of the state’s “Brain Gain 2010” campaign, an effort to increase Oklahoma’s rather low college participation rate. The report card notes that about 35 percent of Oklahoma high school freshmen are enrolled in college within four years, compared to a national average of 54 per-cent. This earned the state a C in participation, one of five categories graded in Measuring Up.

In late January, the Oklahoma State Regents and the Knight Higher Education Collaborative held a two-day “roundtable” in Oklahoma City that focused on the report card findings and efforts to increase the state’s college-going rate.

“We view the report as an opportunity to get key decision-makers together to work on some of our weak areas,” said Ruth Ann Dreyer, vice chancellor of the Oklahoma system.

In Missouri, the annual Governor’s Conference on Higher Education in early December focused on Measuring Up, with Joni E. Finney, vice president of the National Center, as a participant.

“The National Report Card is only one, rather broad assessment of higher education in Missouri but it is a valuable tool for pointing out areas where we need to improve,” Governor-elect Bob Holden told the conference. “For example, Missouri is below the national average of those going on to college. That must change. Our new-century econo-my demands that Missourians are ready to compete, and more educa-tion and training will give them that edge.”

Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center, said he was grat-ified by the initial response to Measuring Up 2000.

“This is a long-term, challenging agenda for the states,” he said. “We’re pleased to see so many states already using the report card as part of their strategies for improvement.”

Not everyone was happy about this first attempt to evaluate nation-al higher education performance on a state-by-state basis.

Chancellor Stephen Portch of the University System of Georgia, questioned the D+ his state received in affordability, saying it should have been A+ because of Georgia’s much-copied HOPE Scholarship program, which pays full college tuition and fees for all high school graduates with a B average or better.

(For more on this point, see Portch’s article on page 7A of this spe-cial supplement to National CrossTalk, and the explanation of Georgia’s affordability grades that appears in a “Q and A” on page 2A.) Several state officials complained that the report used “old data,” and claimed their states had made significant progress since the information was collected that formed the basis for the report card’s grades. Callan and other Center staff members who worked on Measuring Up said most of the information came from 1998, the most recent year for which reliable public data for all 50 states were available. Another criticism was that the report contained little that was new or surprising.

“If I had to say one thing that sums up” what higher education offi-cials in southern states think of the report, it would be, “this only con-firms what we already know, and we’re already working on it,” said Mark Musick, president of the Southern Regional Education Board. “So the question now is, ‘How does the Center push the ball downfield?’”

Callan said he did not expect Measuring Up 2000 to come as star-tling news to state higher education leaders, who should be well aware of conditions in their states. But he expressed hope that the report card will help states build on their strengths and correct weaknesses.

That is the way Texas is planning to use the report. “We consider the report card to be strong outside verification of what Texas is already doing,” said Don Brown, the state’s commissioner of higher education. “It points to the areas we need to strengthen.”

James S. Clarke, deputy commissioner for higher education in Louisiana, said Measuring Up will be helpful even though the state received F grades in both participation and preparation, and these grades produced what Clarke called “some pretty unfavorable head-lines” around the state.

“We think it provides a good entrée for us in the Legislature,” Clarke said. “It will be helpful in persuading legislative committees what must be done to solve some of these problems.”

New Mexico plans a “New Mexico-specific” follow-up to the report card, according to Bruce Hamlett, executive director of the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education. This will be a collaborative effort involving the commission, the New Mexico Business Roundtable for Educational Excellence and the National Center.

Hamlett said the goal of this six-to-nine-month project is to produce a plan that will enable New Mexico to build on the strengths, and improve the weaknesses, that were identified in Measuring Up. The state received a B in affordability, a B- in participation, a C in benefits, a D- in completion and a D- in preparation.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education converted the report card’s letter grades to numbers and concluded that Illinois’ 88.8 was the high-est score in the nation. (Connecticut was second, at 88.2, and New Jersey third, at 88, according to these calculations.)

Illinois received A’s in preparation, participation and affordability but only a C+ in completion, which means the state has had only mediocre success in making sure students complete their degree programs. The Board of Higher Education is expected to appoint a commission of cam-pus presidents, representing two- and four-year institutions, public and private, to study that problem.

The National Center had hoped to grade states in a sixth category— student learning—but found the data lacking for most states and decid-ed to give each state an “Incomplete” in this area.

“The decision not to award a letter grade in student learning is the right one because there are no common benchmarks that would allow meaningful state-to-state comparisons,” Peter Ewell, a senior associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, wrote in Measuring Up 2000.

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