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A national public policy initiative to improve developmental studies in postsecondary education

Accountability and Continuous Improvement

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States have set ambitious goals to increase college attainment rates and to improve resource efficiency. However, few states have developed or implemented a cohesive and aligned accountability framework to make these goals actionable.

Trends suggest that states are at least considering incentive funding and performance measurement as a means of assessing program and policy effectiveness. In the last three years alone, five states have developed performance funding models. With several states serving as laboratories for developing accountability systems, other states may consider adopting accountability and continuous improvement strategies.

A majority of states, 36, collect and track performance data on students taking remedial and developmental courses. Performance reporting is a passive and noninvasive form of accountability. Three other policy mechanisms more actively impact performance by ensuring system heads and institutional administrators pay close attention to the strategies and process that drive outcomes:

  • Performance Benchmarks
  • Continuous Improvement Strategies
  • Performance Funding

Performance benchmarks have two functions: measuring and managing outcomes as intended by policy. Several states, including Kentucky, Washington and West Virginia, have embraced benchmarks as a way of pinpointing where remedial students ‘stop out’ along the college continuum.

Continuous improvement strategies involve regular, consistent evaluation of institutions or of state and system-level policy. These policies strengthen accountability by ensuring institutions make efficient and steady progress on performance.

Five states have or are in the process of implementing performance funding models with remedial education indicators. In these states, policymakers have used benchmarks to distribute resources to institutions. While any of these mechanisms can promote transparency and efficiency, installing all three could improve the odds of a state reaching its attainment goals.

As states and systems develop creative strategies to increase productivity, some states and systems have begun to implement accountability systems and performance incentives to drive the successful delivery of remedial education. In some cases, these strategies are part of large scale accountability models. In other cases, these accountability mechanisms are specific to the delivery of remedial education. Regardless, states and systems must review regularly whether their accountability strategies achieve desired outcomes.

Policy Questions

Linked pages will detail key issues and illustrative state examples for the following questions:

  1. Should you incorporate indicators related to remedial education in performance funding models?
  2. Should your system or state measures of effectiveness include remedial education indicators?
  3. Should you require institutions to submit implementation plans for remedial education?
  4. Should you require campuses to reform the delivery of remedial education if they do not achieve system or state benchmarks?


Accountability & Continuous Improvement in Remedial Education

(Matthew Smith, Education Commission of the States, January 2011)