The National Center
The Value of a Report Card
Goals of the Report Card
Description of the Report Card
State Higher Education Policy
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Description of the Report Card

The National Center's report card on higher education will compare state performance in higher education because it is at the state level that the most significant public policies regarding higher education are made. Although subsequent report cards may expand the area of inquiry, the initial report card will emphasize the traditional guiding values of state policy for education at the baccalaureate and sub-baccalaureate levels: the opportunity to seek and successfully achieve high-quality education and training beyond high school. Performance outcome measures will take into account two- and four-year, public and private institutions in order to reflect the full range of choices available to those seeking education and training beyond high school. In each major area of performance, states will be graded in comparison with the highest-performing states -- a method that emphasizes best performance and establishes high, yet achievable standards of performance.

The report card will be prepared and released regularly, with the first release in fall 2000, and with subsequent releases either annually or biannually.

The National Center has been advised about the feasibility of comparing state performance in higher education by an independent Report Card Feasibility Study Committee (see appendix). Two additional types of independent review are in process: Technical Review by independent scholars and organizations; and Policy Review by a national advisory committee appointed by the National Center (see appendix).

The initial report card will include two major sections, one that summarizes state-by-state performance results within a national context, and one that provides detailed information on each state's results. Each state will be graded on its performance in several key categories. In each category, the state will be given a grade based on its performance relative to that of the top-performing states. The heart of the report card lies in these performance categories for which grades are given.

The initial report card will examine opportunity and achievement for education and training through the bachelor's degree, since these are aspects of higher education policy: (1) over which each state has substantial policy influence; (2) for which there are sufficient data to compare state performance; and (3) which represent traditional state goals of broad access and high attainment. All the performance categories will draw attention to what is, and should be, known about performance.

The categories and their defining questions are:

  • Preparation. How well does the state prepare students to be eligible for and to benefit from opportunities for education beyond high school?

  • Participation. How well does the state perform in providing opportunities for enrollment in postsecondary education?

  • Affordability. How affordable is higher education for students and their families?

  • Persistence and Completion. How well do students persist toward and complete certificates and degrees?

  • Educational Gains and Returns. What are the economic, civic and social benefits that accrue to a state as a result of a more highly educated population?

Grades for each performance category are determined by each state's scores on quantitative indicators. The indicators will reflect the defining questions listed above and will be based on data that allow fair and accurate comparisons over the long term.

The report card will ask what states know about the extent to which students learn from their education and training beyond high school. State results will also be provided but not graded in areas such as cost effectiveness, equity, and change over time -- information that can help provide a context for the graded areas of state performance. In addition, a "Facts and Figures" section will display information about the state's demography and economy, and the organization and funding of its higher education system.

The project's ultimate success depends upon engaging state policy leaders with the policy issues raised by their state's performance in higher education. After the release of the report card, the National Center will assist individual states -- at their request and to the extent feasible -- as they interpret the report card and seek to identify effective policy options. This follow-up includes assisting states in assessing their performance ranges within the state -- in different regions, for instance, or in relation to subpopulations.


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