Here are the reports you should know about this month.
- The use of strategic data can help “promote upward mobility, strengthen the middle class, foster shared economic growth, and enable Americans of all backgrounds to understand and cooperate with one another to solve our toughest public challenges,” assert the authors of two new reports from Results for America. The reports look at how federal leaders and states can use data and evidence to improve student outcomes. Recommendations at the federal level include investing 1 percent of discretionary higher education funding in program evaluations, designating a chief evaluation officer at the Education Department and establishing new technical assistance centers to improve colleges’ capacity to use data and evidence responsibly to improve student outcomes. At the state level, the authors also recommend investments in colleges’ data capacity, designing outcomes-based funding formulas that are transparent and certain in order to financially support colleges that improve performance, and prioritizing equity by ensuring that colleges are rewarded for enrolling and graduating low-income and disadvantaged students.
- The annual Grapevine survey is out. It shows that state fiscal support for higher education nationwide increased by 1.6 percent from the previous fiscal year. While that sounds good, those increases mostly came from three states: California, Florida, and Georgia. In fact, Florida saw an 11.3 percent increase in state funding. Total funding across the other 47 states rose by only 0.2 percent. Nineteen states reported funding decreases. North Dakota saw the largest decrease — 14.6 percent. Grapevine data are collected annually as a joint project of the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).
- The federal government’s Experimental Sites Initiative was designed to help policymakers test out higher education policy and program improvements on a small scale to learn what works. Previous “experiments” have included testing the usefulness of allowing students with bachelor’s degrees to access Pell grants for career education programs and for short-term training programs, and providing Pell grants to incarcerated individuals to access education or training programs in prison. The problem is that experiments have lacked true evaluation, meaning that “we do not know the true impact of those changes,” say the authors of New America’s Putting the Experiment Back in the Experimental Sites Initiative. Among the recommendations, the authors suggest Congress include a requirement that all experiments be evaluated using an approved methodology, and that schools can help in the success of the evaluation by sharing data.