1. Is the indicator from a reliable source?
2. Is the indicator reasonably accurate, precise, reliable, valid, and unbiased?
3. Is it available over time and measured in a consistent way over time? Will it continue to be available?
4. Does it reflect a salient outcome or measure of well-being?
5. Does the indicator have a relatively unambiguous interpretation? Will it be easily understood by the public?
6. Can the indicator be disaggregated in order to report it subnationally, for various population groups, and by specific demographic characteristics?
Together, the participants brought a wide range of ideas to the workshop, suggesting a range of phenomena that might be measured and a range of approaches to data collection and data systems.
Many factors should influence the selection of a short list of indicators for this broad national purpose. As Chris Hoenig, senior advisor to the NAS presidents, noted in opening remarks, the overall set of indicators ultimately adopted by SUSA will be vitally important because they will be used to guide goals and decisions about each major sector in the country. He showed the group the preliminary version of the interactive website, which displays the health indicators that have been selected, to illustrate how useful the program can be. He stressed the importance of the logical framework underlying the selected indicators, which will guide thinking about forces that shape outcomes as well as disparities.
Diana Pullin reinforced this point in her opening remarks, noting that the indicators that are ultimately selected will reflect a particular conception of what it means to be an educated person. There is sometimes a tension in discussion of public education, she added, between the goals of providing a public benefit (a populace that is equipped for citizenship and work, for example) and providing a benefit to individuals (the intellectual tools to pursue a fulfilling life, for example). There is a risk that summative data about this complex enterprise may tend to commodify it, as some have suggested has occurred with indicators used in published report rankings of colleges and high schools do.5 Indicators can be used not just to indicate what has happened, she noted, with reference to the 2011 GAO report, but also to promote progress, to provide transparency, to further accountability, to promote civic engagement, to further economic productivity, and to engender conversation in communities and in commerce.
Like the workshop, this report is organized by the five life spans. Chapters 2 through 6 describe the indicators proposed for the stages and the issues each presented. All of the indicators suggested for each stage are listed at the beginning of these chapters in a table, so that it will be easy to see the range of what was proposed and any areas of overlap.6 The suggestions made by the panelists are summarized, and then the key issues that emerged in discussion are described. Chapter 7 summarizes the remarks of the synthesis panel and the ensuing discussion (the workshop agenda appears in Appendix A and the particpants are listed in Appendix B). The discussion was wide-ranging and this report was designed to capture the most important themes and issues.
6The presenters took varying approaches to the assigned task and this summary report reflects that. Thus, some chapters contain more references and quantitative information than others.