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Metrics, Dollars, and Systems Change: Learning From Washington State's Student Achievement Initiative to Design Effective Postsecondary Performance Funding Policies

By: Davis Jenkins & Nancy Shulock

Abstract

Metrics, Dollars, and Systems Change: Learning From Washington State's Student Achievement Initiative to Design Effective Postsecondary Performance Funding Policies

Washington State’s Student Achievement Initiative (SAI), adopted in 2007, is a performance funding program that rewards the state’s public two-year colleges for students’ intermediate achievements along the pathway toward college completion as well as for completion itself. In addition to motivating colleges through funding, the SAI gives colleges data to help them understand where, along their pathways through college, students are struggling and what changes might improve their forward momentum.

Washington State’s experience with the SAI offers lessons about the process of developing, implementing, and monitoring a performance funding system for community colleges. Based on findings from a three-year evaluation of the SAI, this policy brief draws lessons for state leaders seeking to design effective performance funding systems. The brief makes recommendations on how to design a system of metrics that generates information useful to colleges, create a mechanism for linking performance to budgets that provides motivation for improvement, and foster the conditions by which the data and fiscal motivation produce systemic institutional change.