Issues in Building an Indicator System for Mathematics and Science Education

by Brian M. Stecher, Daniel Koretz


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This report examines one option for developing an indicator system within the National Science Foundation (NSF) to monitor the success or failure of the education system in mathematics and science. This option, referred to as the "patchwork" model, was one of five examined in a precursor 1987 RAND study. The patchwork model is assessed to test the feasibility of a system that includes three key features of math and science education: (1) student achievement, (2) secondary curriculum, and (3) secondary teacher workforce. This study provides lessons about indicators, presents principles for an ideal indicator system, and helps shape recommendations to the NSF in its role as sponsor and user of educational indicators. The efficacy of the patchwork approach is questioned, with a recommendation that NSF adopt a "supplementary" approach that combines obtaining more complete data with commissioning periodic additional data collection to provide longitudinal measures, secondary sources, and in-depth data.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.