Measuring Progress Toward The Goals

The Goals Panel uses 26 national and 34 state-level indicators to measure progress toward the eight National Education Goals. These indicators were selected with the assistance of the Goals Panel's advisors, who were asked to recommend a set of measures that were, to the extent possible:

If policymakers, educators, and the public focus on improving performance on these indicators, the nation should be able to raise its overall level of "educational health" over time.

The sources of the national and state data are large-scale data collections, research studies, and assessments conducted by the universities, education organizations, and federal agencies such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Center for Health Statistics. Many of the indicators are identical at the national and state levels, such as student achievement in mathematics, science, and reading. However, in some cases, only national data are available and there is no comparable state indicator (for example, student achievement in writing, history, and geography). In other cases, we do have a measure at both the national and state levels, but the data are drawn from different sources and differ in the way they are collected or reported (for example, student drug and alcohol use).

In some cases, limited information is available to measure progress, particularly at the state level. Data gaps exist because states may choose not to participate in some data collections for reasons such as cost or the amount of time required for testing. In other cases, states may have participated in a data collection only once, and change over time cannot be determined without a second data point.

It is important to bear in mind that variations in state demographics account for some differences in performance on the state indicators. For example, states with the highest enrollments of limited English proficient students tend to have the highest percentages of teachers with specific training to teach limited English proficient students.

It is also important to note that this report does not include all Goal-related data that a state may collect. States do not collect Goal-related information individually (for example, student achievement, using their own state assessments), but this information is not comparable across states. Only comparable state data are presented in the annual Goals Reports to ensure that state comparisons are fair and that changes over time are not due to changes in sampling or the wording of items2. The Goals Panel is committed to using a common, reliable yardstick to ensure that differences over time are due to real changes in performance.