Friday, February 13, 2009

An Audacity of Hope

by Daniel Bennett

It was announced on Thursday that the Gates Foundation is providing the National Student Clearinghouse with a $2.9 million grant to develop a national student database. The database will enable the tracking of student achievement through postsecondary education, and hopefully, beyond.

According to the announcement:
"This new Clearinghouse system an expansion of its StudentTracker for High Schools system will address the urgent need within the education community for a standardized method for measuring the actual educational outcomes of students once they finish high school. Currently, there is no universally accepted way to determine the postsecondary attainment of high school students. As a result, U.S. policy makers and educators are unable to uniformly assess the performance of the nation's secondary school system and make information-based decisions on policy and program improvements."
I agree that this provides a fantastic opportunity to produce data for policy makers to utilize in making decisions on public expenditures for education, rather than relying on old-fashioned conjectures and romanticized ideology. Such a system will permit us to understand which schools (both K-12 and college) are performing well and help us steer our educational methodology in the right direction. The best part is that the operation is privately controlled and not subject to the inefficient federal bureaucracy. I would hope that the system eventually be expanded to include post college graduation outcomes, but let's count this as a victory for now and laud the fact that we have an Audacity of Hope for future generations.

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