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Measure Progress

Adopt accountability metrics and dashboards to measure progress toward the state attainment goal

Improve Student

To increase education attainment, states can set goals for improvement and measure progress using data systems that connect K-12 education, postsecondary education and workforce information. Further, to really understand student progress and measure improvement against the goal, states can identify and define common metrics at the state, system and institutional levels that track student access and success. States can display key goals and metrics and track progress through online dashboards. States also can create user-friendly public information tools that help students and their families find institutions and programs that best meet their needs.

In a 2016 report—Answering the Call: Institutions and States Lead the Way Toward Better Measures of Postsecondary Performance—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation proposes a common metrics framework that counts all students, institutions, outcomes and costs. The framework brings together the work of 15 different initiatives that have focused on data, ranging from Achieving the Dream and Completion by Design to the Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange and the Voluntary Institutional Metrics Project. The framework identifies performance, efficiency and equity metrics for access, progression, completion, cost and post-college outcomes. The Institute for Higher Education Policy released a companion publication—Toward Convergence: A Technical Guide for the Postsecondary Metrics Frameworkwhich provides common functional definitions for the metrics identified in the Answering the Call framework.

State Examples

Each of the following state examples is a policy solution crafted in response to the unique circumstances of the state in which it was formed. As a private foundation, Lumina does not support or oppose any legislation. Lumina provides educational information, nonpartisan research and analysis to advance Goal 2025.


The California State University (CSU) System, making use of student-unit-record level data collected for more than a decade, has developed a Student Success Dashboard that enables leaders to track the success of their students. The dashboard was unveiled to the CSU Board of Trustees in January 2014, and currently analyzes information about first-time, full-time CSU students. CSU plans to expand available data to include additional student populations over time. The dashboard allows leaders to monitor graduation rates, completions, and persistence by gender and race/ethnicity. The dashboard also identifies predictors of success, such as the completion of developmental education and first-year courses, at both the system and campus level. The visually engaging tool allows leaders to quickly see the numbers of students entering the system or an individual campus in a given year and the winnowing of students over the subsequent four to six years.  Incorporating predictive analytics, the tool provides information about ways to potentially increase completions by improving performance in specific common program areas.  The dashboard is available for use only by leadership within the CSU system; however, the presentation to the board of trustees can be viewed online (see Day 2, Part 3).


The Colorado master plan for higher education—Colorado Competes: A Public Agenda for Higher Education—identifies four performance goals: increasing attainment to 66 percent by 2025, improving student success, reducing gaps in attainment, and restoring fiscal balance. For each goal, the plan also identifies targets and indicators of progress. The Colorado Department of Higher Education maintains an online dashboard that provides an overview of many of the identified indicators, including enrollment, degrees awarded, retention rates and remediation rates. The department makes many other data and reports available as well.


Based on performance metrics in its Stronger by Degrees (2011-2015) plan, Kentucky created a dashboard that focuses on four areas—readiness; success; research, economic and community development; and efficiency and innovation. The opening page provides a quick overview for key measures in each area with an arrow indicating trends—upward, holding steady or downward. Users can click on any of the four areas and learn more about that particular set of metrics. Links provide easy access to the three other main areas, as well as institutional metrics, regional metrics, institutional scorecards, strategies and a technical guide. In June 2016, Kentucky adopted a new Stronger by Degrees strategic plan for 2016-2021 and has committed to developing new performance metrics by the end of 2016.


Washington State has created a dashboard for its public four-year institutions that includes a variety of measures in three areas—student enrollment, student progression and degrees and graduates. The dashboard presents metrics in all three areas in an easy-to-read format for the state and for each public, four-year institution. The dashboard was included in Washington’s 2011 Higher Education Opportunity Act (House Bill 1795) and unveiled online in December 2011. The law specifically refers to inclusion of the college completion metrics developed by the National Governors Association with input from practitioners, researchers and policy experts. The law also calls for institutions to report their data annually and to post them publicly.

Metro Communities Setting Goals and Tracking Progress to Improve Attainment

Leaders in many metropolitan areas are also coming together to develop initiatives to improve postsecondary attainment in their communities. Like their state counterparts, metro leaders are setting goals for increased attainment, developing indicators to measure progress, and creating dashboards for reporting data to leaders and members of the community. Lumina Foundation is supporting some of these efforts in 75 metropolitan communities through its Community Partnership for Attainment. Among the participating communities are Albuquerque, New Mexico, Cincinnati, Ohio, Dallas, Texas and Louisville, Kentucky. These are just a few examples of how engaged communities are focused on attainment and public reporting to measure their progress.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

In January 2013, leaders from communities in the Albuquerque metropolitan area signed the Central New Mexico Education Compact and established a goal of awarding 60,000 new college degrees and credentials by 2020. In March 2013, the initiative became known as Mission: Graduate and joined the Strive/United Way Worldwide/Target Learning Cohort. Through Mission: Graduate, community leaders established seven core outcome indicators from kindergarten readiness to college enrollment, completion and employment. The website includes a dashboard for monitoring progress across all seven outcomes.

Cincinnati, Ohio

In 2006, community leaders in the Cincinnati metropolitan area came together to develop a partnership that would support improved academic success in their urban community. The effort, now known as the Strive Partnership, developed five goals around improving education from cradle to career, including postsecondary attainment. The partnership is committed to tracking progress against a set of indicators that are posted publicly in a report card in the partnership’s annual report. The partnership also supported the development of a Learning Partner Dashboard, which allows the linking and sharing of academic and non-academic data among the Cincinnati schools and other community organizations serving students.

Dallas, Texas

In early 2012, leaders from various sectors of the Dallas metropolitan community came together to create the Commit! Partnership to support improved student achievement from “cradle to career.” The partnership is now comprised of leaders from more than 125 organizations representing education, business, civic and philanthropic entities. The partnership is leveraging data, community expertise and collective action to measure what matters, identify effective practices and align resources to spread what works. The partnership identified 11 critical community achievement indicators featured in its Community Achievement Scorecard, which includes data on postsecondary retention and completion.

Louisville, Kentucky

In 2010, Louisville leaders established a goal that by 2020, 50 percent of working adults would have earned college degrees, which at the time required producing an additional 55,000 degrees. The 55,000 Degrees initiative tracks progress on two overall measures—attainment of the overall population and degree completions—and on a series of indicators grouped around five objectives detailed in the annual progress report. An Education Data Dashboard provides more detailed and interactive data around the measures and indicators presented in the report. Following two years of decreases in the attainment rate of working adults between 2009 and 2011, attainment rates rose again and reached a historic high of 41.7 percent in 2014. Moreover, postsecondary attainment among young adults is growing at a faster rate and increased by 5 percent between 2011 and 2014.


Additional Metro Strategy Resources