which measure or combination of measures best captures this essential aspect of schooling, and he finds it “problematic that such a fundamental concept has received so little measurement attention.”


Though the panelists were all given the same charge, they approached it in somewhat different ways. Each considered the indicators they chose as a set, intended to cover at least one aspect of the status of education. Some focused only on one of the three aspects defined in the committee’s framework; see Appendix C for a list of the indicators arranged by presenter. Thus, individually, each indicator tells a story, Mark Dynarski noted, but taken as a group they should reveal more. For example, if the teacher-student ratio is changing over time, that suggests students may be getting more or less time with teachers. But if that indicator is examined in light of other indicators, of teacher quality or of other factors that may influence the ratio, for example, a more nuanced picture can emerge.

Though the workshop was not intended as a vehicle for making a final selection or recommendations of indicators, discussant Henry Braun encouraged the panelists to use the initial suggestions each had made to consider the characteristics the system as a whole should have. The indicators put forward, he suggested, could easily have been suggested 10 or even 20 years earlier, and he wondered whether further thinking would be needed to ensure that the indicators ultimately chosen will support important contemporary goals for education. The discussion addressed this question from several angles.

College Readiness? Broader Goals?

Several discussants also wondered whether the indicators suggested reflected a sufficiently ambitious vision of what public education can accomplish. One noted that the indicators chosen for a similar project covering European countries (Hoskins, Cartwright, and Schoof, 2010) are based in fundamental social goals: economic security, social cohesion, and sustainability. The United States might have somewhat different goals, the participant added, such as promoting participatory democracy or a balance between individual freedom and responsibility, but the set of indicators chosen could be conceived as measures of how well the system is meeting such goals.

Another participant suggested a different sort of educational purpose that also could provide a conceptual underpinning for the indicators chosen. Beyond the specific skills and knowledge education should impart, he explained, is the idea that education should help children develop images of “possible selves” as they gain understanding of what their options are. Prior efforts to “rethink” high school, he added, such as the Youth Act of 198020 or the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994,21 have not yielded the desired changes. He hopes that current thinking focuses less on the distinctions between college and career preparation and more on helping students prepare to grow and change.


20For a description, see http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED195851.pdf.

21For a description, see http://www.fessler.com/SBE/act.htm.

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