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The first step for states in responding to Measuring Up 2000 is to ask more explicit and targeted questions about the nature of the issues and problems identified in the report card. These diagnostic questions should mirror the general performance categories and indicators used in Measuring Up 2000 but should also direct and focus policy formation within the state. The questions are helpful in determining how educational opportunity differs among population subgroups within the state-for instance, by geographic area, race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic group.
In "unbundling" the indicators in Measuring Up 2000, the following diagnostic questions are suggested in relation to each of the report card's five performance categories.
Measuring Up 2000 evaluates preparation for college-level work by seeking to answer the following overall question: How adequately are students in each state being prepared for education and training beyond high school?
- Which students are performing particularly well or poorly on measures of preparation? How does performance differ by geography (county), by race/ethnicity, by urban/rural location, and by family income?
- Do students have access to instructional experiences that lead to excellent preparation? Are Advanced Placement courses available? Are advanced math and science courses offered? Can students complete the full range of core courses at their high schools? How do these offerings differ by location in the state?
Measuring Up 2000 evaluates participation and enrollment in college-level programs by answering the following overall question: Do state residents have sufficient opportunities to enroll in education and training beyond high school?
- How does participation vary by important student characteristics such as geographic location (county), race/ethnicity, and family income?
- How does participation in different institutional sectors (two-year, four-year, research, regional, etc.) and major fields of study vary by important student characteristics?
- How dependent is the state on other states to provide access to higher education?
- How do participation rates of older, part-time students compare with rates in other states? How do they vary within the state?
Measuring Up 2000 evaluates states on the affordability of colleges and universities by answering the following overall question: How affordable is higher education for students and their families?
- What are the costs of attendance for students relative to their ability to pay? How does this compare with other states?
- How does price to students affect participation?
- To what extent is student aid directed toward low-income students-rather than students who have special abilities (need-based versus merit-based)?
- How does loan burden vary by income level?
Measuring Up 2000 defines college completion as follows: Do students make progress toward and complete their certificates and degrees in a timely manner?
- Which sectors of higher education exhibit particularly high or low rates of persistence and/or completion?
- How do persistence and completion rates vary by student characteristics such as race/ethnicity, gender, major field of study, and academic standing?
- How does degree production-by level of degree and field-compare with that in other states?
- What factors might influence low persistence and graduation rates?
- What are the characteristics of "student flow" from one type of institution to another in the state?
- What factors are associated with differing times to graduation?
- What is the relationship between high school academic performance and college persistence and completion?
In considering the benefits that accrue to states, Measuring Up 2000 asks: What benefits does the state receive as a result of having a highly educated population?
- Is the state importing or exporting college graduates?
- How is the state's economy changing? Can it absorb the graduates of the higher education system? Does it demand graduates that the higher education system is not producing?
- How do high school/college wage differentials compare with those in other states?
- What concerns do employers have about college graduates (for instance, in terms of the number of graduates, workplace skills, and their ability to apply knowledge)? Do these concerns vary in relation to the institutional sector from which the students graduated?
- How does the state rank with regard to various quality-of-life measures, such as health measures, incarceration rates, and the indicators published in Kids Count (Annie E. Casey Foundation)?
- Is the state participating in the knowledge-based industries of the new economy?
Measuring Up 2000 asked the following overall question about student learning: What do we know about student learning as a result of education and training beyond high school? Measuring Up 2000 gave all states an incomplete on this measure because they lack information on the educational performance of college students that would permit systematic state or national comparisons.
Additional Diagnostic Questions
- Do students have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the postsecondary system of the state?
- Do graduates of the postsecondary system have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in entry-level jobs?
Although the majority of diagnostic questions are driven by the indicators in Measuring Up 2000, additional useful questions focus on the cost-effectiveness of postsecondary education in the state.
- How does the state's overall postsecondary investment compare with states that perform better on key measures?
- Are postsecondary investments in keeping with state priorities?
- Does the state have the capacity to invest more? What is the likelihood that the state will be able to sustain this investment in the future?
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© 2000 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education