The national need for improved educational performance has led to increased demand for better data to monitor and improve outcomes. Among other recommendations, the March 2005 report of the SHEEO sponsored National Commission on Accountability in Higher Education encouraged states to set goals and monitor performance. To facilitate that work, the Accountability Commission encouraged the federal government to develop a national student unit record system. In a similar vein, Secretary of Education Spellings’ Action Agenda calls for the development of a student unit record database as a tool for improving state and federal higher education policymaking and addressing the needs identified in the report from the Commission on the Future of Higher Education. These are not unprecedented recommendations, but the latest in a long series of efforts to improve education by improving our knowledge about results.
This brief paper focuses on four topics: the utility of better data for improving policy and performance; the current status of state data systems; principles for improving unit record data in the states; and next steps.
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