IPEDS Data–Pros and Cons

Yesterday, some interesting comments went up in the post on the Representation of the Reinvention, and I was particularly intrigued by the multiple mentions of IPEDS data. I’ve heard of IPEDS, but frankly don’t know much about it except that various states have been struggling to meet a federal mandate (from the No Child Left Behind Act) to develop better student tracking and data analysis systems stretching from Kindergarten through College (hereafter “Foucault’s Prediction”).

But I’ve been hearing more and more about it lately. Enough to make me think, “Hmm…I should find out what that is.” I haven’t. But I did come across this article last week. It was helpful, and if and when I ever get the batches of papers that I’ve been hauling around for two weeks graded and out of my hands, I’m sure I’ll enjoy spending some time learning what IPEDS is all about. If, in the meantime, you know something, or learn something from this article, please let us all know.

It seems to be something important. I think I’d like to know more.

(Oh, there’s also some stuff in there about what a terrible measure graduation is for community college success (and some alternative possibilities for measures of student success, which, even if they are not what the accreditors, et.al, are looking for might be worth including in our measures of the success of the reinvention, but I digress. Still, I can’t resist including a quote):

Despite the generally straight-ahead analytical approach, the council’s report is not without an agenda, which it does not hide: warning policy makers that there is risk in overemphasizing the extent to which they use graduation rates to judge institutions or higher education generally, as some seem inclined to do amid the intensified political focus on “college completion.”

“[G]raduation rates are increasingly becoming a significant part of the accountability conversation on postsecondary education institutions,” the paper states. “As this report reveals, there are numerous databases from which to calculate national graduation rates; however, as this report also highlights, no single database can calculate annual, comprehensive graduation rates for all institutions and/or students enrolled in postsecondary education.”

“This report highlights the complexities of measuring what many policy makers view as a simple compliance metric with the existing national databases,” the report says. Elsewhere it adds: “[A]s the disadvantages of these databases indicate, these data should be used carefully as a measure of the overall productivity of postsecondary education institutions.”

Anyway, check it out. Using IPEDS is only one of multiple options. Maybe, by getting involved (and by self educating), we can guide our leaders to a better measure (or at least be fully informed about the measure being used).