NCES can help meet the new challenge of linking school finance more closely to educational performance by adding productivity concerns to its traditional emphasis on revenues and expenditures. (Revenue and expenditure data continue to be important as well, and we suggest some improvements in these statistics at the end of this section.) Giving more attention to data linking finances and performance requires attention to the level of education for which data are collected as well as to how data are collected, topics which are addressed in the next two sections. But interacting with those issues are questions about the types of finance data that will be needed.
We were not able to undertake detailed analysis of the feasibility, trade-off, and cost considerations that NCES will need to address before making decisions about additional data to be sought; rather, we suggest some key areas that should be explored as instruments are developed to link finance data more closely to issues of student and school performance.
Outcome data are clearly central in evaluating school performance and its connection with finance. It is also clear that developing appropriate outcome indicators will be a complex and expensive task with great potential for inappropriate use of available measures, for all the reasons discussed in this report. Not only in data reporting, but in state and local administrative structures as well, there has been a sharp separation between those who are concerned with fiscal information and those who are concerned with curricular and assessment issues, and so we have little experience with bringing these separate universes together in a common reporting framework.
State-level policy makers, however, are beginning to demand that outcome data be included in routine fiscal reporting; and the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has for several years been involved in research efforts that in the foreseeable future could result in requirements that performance measures be included in annual financial reports for all governmental entities, including those responsible for elementary and secondary education.2 NCES should be
Information about the board's government performance measures project can be found on the its web site: http://www.rutgers.edu/Accounting/raw/gasb/seagov/SEARR1.htm. Examples of input, output, outcome, and explanatory factors under consideration are shown at: http://www.rutgers.edu/Accounting/raw/gasb/seagov/E&SEducRR1.htm.