Pretend you are a high school student "shopping" around for the higher education everyone keeps talking about. Now go to the U.S. Department of Education's revamped Web site on the subject. Click around, selecting a wide variety of majors, locations, costs, and other variables in the data base.
The site, called College Navigator, is actually on the Web site of the National Center for Education Statistics, and represents accelerated attempts by DOE to implement the recommendations of Secretary Spellings's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The panel has called for expanded collection and reporting of data on every college and university in the country.
Although the search engine apparently still has some bugs in it, the idea is to allow anyone to compare groups of schools against each other, using such factors as cost and graduation rates.
At this point the site does not include information on "learning outcomes," though the commission has urged colleges and universities to collect such statistics. The group has also been highly critical of regional accrediting agencies, setting off a storm of controversy over the "nationalization" of curricula and instruction.
“The state of the art [in measuring learning outcomes] is in its infancy,” Secretary Spellings told USA Today.