SPI/SDP: Harvard University's Strategic Data Project has released the first set of "Strategic Performance Indicators" used to examine college-going patterns among five districts that serve over a combined 500k high school students. This project, funded by the Gates Foundation, aims to create a benchmark for school evaluations--"not unlike a financial ratio that can illuminate the financial health of a firm or the on-base percentage of a hitter in baseball." Among its findings: gaps in college enrollment between white and non-white students exist but are dramatically reduced when accounting for similar socioeconomic and achievement backgrounds. Also, college attendance rates "vary considerably" between students with similar academic qualifications who attend different high schools within a district. And a considerable number of qualified kids choose not to attend competitive colleges. These nice Harvard researchers also provide a free toolkit for those interested in conducting similar research. Next up: a set of indicators that look at where districts place novice teachers and how well districts retain their most effective teachers. More information in the press release; The Quick and the Ed provides a succinct summary.

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