Accountability and Information Practices in the California Community Colleges: Toward Effective Use of Information in Decision-Making

  • Description

A comprehensive assessment of the effects of performance-based funding is not yet available. Yet according to early national survey results, the impact of performance-based funding on overall campus outcomes has been moderate at best (Burke and Minassians, 2002). These national findings may mirror experiences within California. In 1998, the State of California and the California Community Colleges inaugurated a performance-based funding program called the Partnership for Excellence (PFE). The program launch represented a commitment by the state legislature to earmark additional funding for the community colleges, in exchange for the colleges' agreement to develop, track, and achieve, by 2005, system-wide performance goals to improve student learning and success. Through 2000-01, the state appropriation to the community colleges for the PFE program was allocated by the Chancellor's Office to local college districts based on enrollment. There were conditions in place for moving from an enrollment-based to a more performance-driven formula, but before those conditions were fully triggered, the program was not re-funded. The Legislative Analyst's Office issued an analysis that was critical of the effects of the PFE program on system performance in the community colleges. In its analysis of the 2002-03 state budget, it stated that the program was "failing to meet objectives" and that the measurement of results were "hindered by methodological disagreement and conceptual vagueness" (Legislative Analyst's Office, 2002). During the time period when the Partnership for Excellence (PFE) program was still being funded by the Legislature, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) conducted two district-wide studies, representing eleven colleges, that examined the needs and patterns of data and information access, sharing, and use in two community college districts in California. As part of these studies, a wide range of administrators, faculty, and staff were interviewed about their use of information in decision-making on campus. Given the state's continuing interest in developing an accountability system for the California Community Colleges (Office of the Chancellor, 2005), these studies provide illuminating insights into the complex relationship between external mandates for accountability and internal practices of information and knowledge retrieval, use, and management at the district level.