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Implementation & Accountability

Increase College Completion

Implementation & Accountability


Because of the variety in proven interventions, states and communities have leeway to find programs that suit local values, opportunities and budgets. The key is to select strategies that have documented effectiveness, assure that they are implemented well and recognize the critical importance of a strong commitment to continuous program improvement.

  • Match expectations with sufficient resources.  Be clear about the goals, purpose and target audience for specific programs.  Provide sufficient resources to ensure fidelity to the evidence-based model or modify expectations to accommodate variances.
  • Identifying barriers.  Effective policy development requires the identification of factors that may impede effective implementation.
  • Make provisions for broad-based input.  When involvement will increase the likelihood that the needs of children and families are being met by the policy, engage community stakeholders (children and youth, parents, schools, providers, and local farmers and retailers) in implementation.
  • Support local capacity and communication. Provide technical assistance, monitoring and oversight to local programs and agencies.  Create opportunities for local-to-local communication, best practices sharing and local input on state policy decisions.
  • Support ongoing evaluation and continuous program improvement.  

Every state’s higher education system is different. Leadership for implementation can come from statewide coordinating boards that provide broad policy guidance for a state, from governing boards that directly manage a higher education system, from state legislatures or passionate legislative leaders, or from governors, whose support is often critical to any successful initiative, even if it originates elsewhere.


Communications is also part of a strong implementation plan. Targeted communications strategies like the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ Returning Adults to Progress in Degree Completion Program (RAPID) grant and Oklahoma’s Reach Higher Degree Completion Program are statewide outreach campaigns that offer information on how students can complete degrees in a timely manner.


Finally, external experts or national organizations can offer powerful resources. The Pathways to College Network is an alliance of national organizations that advance college opportunity for underserved students so that all students, especially those underrepresented in postsecondary education, can achieve their educational dreams. 


The National Center for Academic Transformation promotes course redesign that can both improve quality and reduce cost.  States and institutions are also exploring ways to reduce costs in other areas, ranging from athletics programs to health care benefits, in order to protect expenditures on student instruction.


Evaluation is essential for successful policy implementation and to ensure intended outcomes.  Accountability requires determining whether programs are implemented correctly, the right programs and strategies are used, progress is measured appropriately and children and families are benefiting.

This is established through both monitoring results (what we are trying to accomplish) and monitoring performance (how we tried to accomplish it).

·         Monitoring Results.  Through data, other information and consultation, it is possible to determine if the results we set out to achieve for children and families have been attained.  By reexamining the selected indicators we can measure our progress toward the desired result.


·         Monitoring Performance.   Oversight requires policymakers to determine if policy objectives have been achieved by focusing attention on the performance of specific programs or agencies. This involves reviewing individual programs and their impact on the lives of the people the program is designed to serve.


To determine if the strategies are contributing to better results and meeting performance standards.    

  • Assign responsibility for realistic outcomes.   Responsibility for outcomes should be designated based on the appropriate roles, resources and capacity of public and private stakeholders.
  • Establish oversight bodies that consistently review key actions by state agencies.
  • Report progress to stakeholders and the community.  Require public availability of data to allow administrators, policymakers and the public to measure the state’s progress on key outcomes.
  • Set specific goals and measure progress. The best accountability measures and systems for College Completion are about the what, not the how. Trying to micromanage how systems and institutions get there can stifle creativity. Be clear about which measures are most important. “Increasing the number of educated citizens in the state” and “Improving customer satisfaction in student unions” do not rise to the same level. There’s no one right way of collecting and reporting accountability data.  Texas has a good system for interactively querying accountability data and makes clear on the home page what some of the top-level priorities are.  Wisconsin has a clear, print-format accountability report that uses a simple +/- system to quickly indicate how the state is doing on each goal from year to year.  

Considering Co-Investment:
1. Are we consulting with appropriate experts, advocates and constituents?

2. Are we ensuring that families being consulted and that their views and experiences are being considered?


A checklist of questions to ask to monitor results and performance.


A checklist of questions to ask in order to increase the likelihood of successful implementation.


1. Does this policy take into account differences in cultures and community norms?

2. Will/Is this policy improving racial equity?