Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Improving Institutional Report Card Indicators

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Improving Institutional Report Card Indicators

Article excerpt


Institutional report cards are increasingly being used by higher educational institutions to present academic outcomes to external audiences of prospective students and parents, as well as program and institutional evaluators. While systems such as the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN) have reached critical mass participation levels in order to provide comparative information for stakeholders in a standardized format, criticisms continue about the voluntary participation of its membership and lack of information regarding student experiences, student future plans, and learning outcomes. In addition, incomplete data sets and aggregated or collapsed data points as well as the lack of student progress or value-added features such as score percentiles, rankings, and recommendations, restricts system value for consumers. While some prospective students are served by national transparency measures such as VSA's College Portrait® and IPEDS' College Navigator®, most users mine information from an institutional web site, so even institutions at the bottom of the comparison spectrum need to manage their information dissemination to fulfill audience needs. An analysis of the Web-published institutional report cards and transparency reports of a representative sample, stratified by institutional type and geographic location, of 82 American higher educational institutions yielded results which influenced the development of a taxonomy of institutional report cards for higher educational institutions.

The growth in the deployment of institutional report cards, confirmed by this study, seems to parallel recent legislation of the Every Student Success Act (P.L. 114-95, 2015), including reform to a more state-wide centered transparency initiative in which each state develops its own standards. Institutional report cards may offer consumers the strongest evidence that a particular institution is effective in addressing its growth and community impact; its reflection of the demographic characteristics of the college district; and that measures taken to improve student success, instructional quality, and satisfaction rates have been effective. With data from these report cards increasingly being reported to state workforce investment boards and department of education structures for inclusion in performance evaluation funding awards, evidence is increasing that taxpayers and lawmakers are increasingly making value judgements about the educational quality reflected in the data.

The current study emerges from a need to better quantify and qualify what good learning and instructional settings mean for consumers of higher educational products. Pressures from various stakeholder voices, including taxpayers, accreditation agencies, and student participants increasingly taking on proactive change in a spectrum from legislative action to student protest. Therefore, the need for transparency and meaningfulness of system data, particularly when linked to funding, has never been greater, yet literature in this field is not well-developed, perhaps because accountability stakeholders are tied to political processes. Increasingly, literature is recognizing that educational accountability, performance and support requires a coordinated effort of key stakeholder groups: state departments of education to collect data and evaluate performance of districts to form state benchmarks; accrediting bodies, for setting accreditation standards and directing local school boards regarding implementation plans; state boards for accrediting schools and overseeing academic programs; and institution leaders who create, adopt, implement, and evaluate plans.


The use of performance reporting has been linked to positive association and trust (Grosso & Van Ryzin 2011), allows trend performance to be analyzed (Gajewski, Mahnken & Dunton 2008), and is theorized to reduce corruption if accountability measures and electoral mechanisms are in place (Schatz 2013). …

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