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Indicators In Depth

What Measures We Use and Why

To achieve change, education-to-workforce (E-W) data systems must measure how students are performing and progressing toward key outcomes and how underlying conditions help or hinder their success. The E-W Framework includes 99 indicators that have the potential to inform local, state, and federal policy and practice to promote more equitable outcomes. The indicators are organized into three categories: 

  • Outcomes and milestones: Key outcomes and milestones along the E-W continuum that are strongly associated with economic mobility and security (for example, high school graduation)
  • E-W system conditions: Key institutional or systemic environments, policies, and practices within and across E-W systems that support positive E-W outcomes (for example, expenditures per student)
  • Adjacent system conditions: Key experiences, situations, and circumstances outside of E-W systems that support positive E-W outcomes (for example, food security)

Within each category, the indicators are organized according to three interrelated domain areas that shape people’s journeys toward economic mobility and security: academic progress and completion; social, emotional, and physical well-being; and career readiness and economic success.

Framework users can adapt their use of indicators based on their priorities and the essential questions that are most important to them, but we encourage users to examine all three types of indicators together. Data on system conditions are essential to understand how to better support students’ outcomes and milestones. The reverse is also true: data on outcomes and milestones shed light on the performance of these systems and where to intervene to better support individuals. Together, data on individuals and systems help organizations and institutions create conditions where everyone can thrive no matter their race, ethnicity, income, or other characteristics. 

Indicator Review Process

Mathematica began by reviewing 41 existing indicator frameworks, from which we identified over 250 possible indicators. To help us determine which indicators matter most, we brought together E-W researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and community advocates. Across multiple working sessions, we assessed each indicator against the following review criteria: 

Round 1 review criteria

  1. Is it actionable for addressing inequities?
  2. Is it predictive of later education or workforce success?
  3. Is it meaningful to parents, students, educators, and others working to improve outcomes?

Round 2 review criteria

  1. Is it feasible to measure? 
  2. Is it valid for disaggregation; that is, data can be collected consistently and reliably across different groups?
  3. Is it comparable across contexts, including time and place (e.g., states)?
  4. Does it minimize unintended consequences; that is, is it unlikely to be manipulated or create perverse incentives?

During and after each round of the review process, we gathered input from our partners to help identify potential gaps in the source frameworks and research consulted, prioritize indicators to include or exclude, and refine the measurement guidance for each indicator.

Some of the framework’s 99 indicators are already regularly collected through administrative data systems, while others require linking individual-level records from multiple sectors. Other indicators may not yet be collected systematically and would require administering a new assessment or survey tool. And for a small number of indicators, measurement is still being refined and tested in the field. However, an important goal for the framework is to recognize the innovative work happening across the country and encourage greater field coordination as we strive to measure what matters most. 

“The good stuff never is quite feasible to measure. You get what you can, then you focus on what is meaningful and what is actionable, and then you push towards broader use and availability of these measures over time.” 
-Community advocate 

Indicator Profiles

The framework provides detailed profiles for all 99 framework indicators, including the relevant sector(s) for each indicator, recommended metric(s), an explanation of why it matters, measurement considerations, and a description of the source framework(s) that included each indicator.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.