|ISSUE 7 | SUMMER 2011|
The Council on Virginia's Future works in four areas -- strategic vision / roadmap development, assessment, performance, and productivity improvement -- to enhance the state's effectiveness in making Virginia an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.
Each year, Council staff take a summary look back at the year that was in terms of Virginia's progress toward its long-term goals. The annual Virginia Report answers the question, "How is Virginia Doing?" by examining performance on both high-level societal indicators and the metrics kept by state agencies on key measures and targets.
The latest Virginia Report also offers readers two new sections: "A Brief Profile of Virginia" contains key facts about Virginia's people, economy, and government; "A Regional Perspective" looks at key indicators in economy, education, health and public safety through the lens of the state's eight regions.
Key Outcome Highlights
The Economy. Virginia, like the nation, continues to emerge slowly from the recent economic downturn. Our performance in many key economic areas continues to outpace the national average. Even though poverty and unemployment rates rose in 2010, so did personal income levels, as well as average wages and salaries. Indeed, Virginia still ranks in the top 10 nationally for 5 of the 7 major economic indicators tracked on Virginia Performs.
Education. The Commonwealth's educational picture, too, is generally positive. Graduation rates from high school and 2- and 4-year colleges continue to improve, and the state still has one of the best-educated workforces in the U.S. -- ranking 6th nationally for percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree or higher. Yet recent signs indicate that performance in the lower grades -- in particular, the 3rd and 4th grade assessments in reading and math -- has begun to flatten out.
Other Trends. Like many other states, the Commonwealth has enjoyed recent drops in crime (see sidebar story at right), traffic fatalities, energy consumption, waste volumes, and air pollution. It has also seen steady improvement in cancer and cardiovascular deaths, as well as child abuse and foster care rates. But other indicators -- including obesity, smoking, immunizations, traffic congestion and consumer protection -- have either stayed static or declined. [Story 2 below provides a recap of Scorecard changes since Spring 2010.]
The 49 societal indicators tracked through Virginia Performs reveal that the Commonwealth continues generally to acquit itself well.
During the past year, 9 societal indicators have seen shifts in performance significant enough to warrant a trend (arrow) change on the Virginia Performs Scorecard at a Glance. Some of these shifts are the result of recent improvements; some reflect how, after years of steady progress, it can be hard to find that next surge forward; and a few indicate some slippage in performance.
From Worsening to Maintaining. Infrastructure conditions in Virginia -- specifically roads and bridges -- have been on a slow decline since the early 2000s; recently, however, both the percentage of bridges rated "deficient" and the percentage of roads (interstate and primary) in fair or better condition have improved slightly. In addition, Virginia has maintained the overall cost-effectiveness of its highway system and ranks 18th in the nation.
From Maintaining to Improving. Measures for both Voter Registration & Turnout and Solid Waste & Recycling have seen multi-year improvements recently. Since its peak in 2004, the total amount of solid waste processed in Virginia (both natively generated and imported from other states) has dropped by as much as 7 million tons; meanwhile the recycling rate for that same period has increased in most regions of the state. Other good news: Both voter registration and participation have improved since the 2004 elections. Although the near-record U.S. voter response during the 2008 elections -- where Virginia ranked 12th in the nation -- is widely viewed as unusual, the increased registration rates across Virginia during the 2009 elections continue to bode well for voter participation going forward.
After years of steady improvement, a few indicators in Education and in Health appear to have hit a plateau.
From Improving to Maintaining. Standards of Learning test results for 3rd Grade Reading improved from 2007-2009, but the 2010 school year saw a drop to levels only slightly higher than when the new tests were first introduced in 2006. NAEP assessments in 2009 for 4th Grade Reading and Math show decreased scores since 2007 -- but an overall performance trend that has remained about the same since 2005. Meanwhile, the High School Dropout rate increased for a number of regions in 2010 compared to 2009, but in most cases were still lower than dropout rates in 2008. The Virginia Department of Education has been working to address these trends; their strategies include providing technical assistance to school divisions, increasing preofessional development, and creating additional tools to help teachers help more students achieve success.
Virginia enjoys one of the lowest foster care rates in the country -- but continues to struggle with finding permanent homes for those children who do end up in foster care. Despite gains made in 2006 and 2007, adoption rates since have dropped back to their pre-2006 levels, and the Commonwealth currently has the lowest adoption rate in the U.S.
More surprising is what's happened recently with both smoking and immunization outcomes.
From Improving to Worsening. Smoking rates were higher in 2009 after what had generally been a steady decline since 2000. Moreover, increased smoking was seen across most education and income levels and for nearly every age group as well. As for Immunization, after years of improvements, vaccination rates for Virginia children have declined in recent years. Although this decline seems to be part of a nationwide trend, it is still unsettling, and the Virginia Department of Health is investigating ways to turn things around. Even vaccination rates among the elderly have been uneven; after mostly steady improvement from 2005-2007, flu immunization rates since then have been in decline, although pneumonia vaccinations are up slightly for the same period.
Check out the Scorecard at a Glance to see Virginia's current status on all the indicators tracked on Virginia Performs.
Two years of hard work have paid off: The Commonwealth’s new Performance Budgeting system went live in time to produce the amended 2010-2012 budget for the 2011 General Assembly Session, thanks to the efforts of the public–private development team led by the Department of Planning and Budget and the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. The new system has already helped streamline the budget document process and will continue to integrate and replace the various systems, databases, spreadsheets, and documents that have traditionally been a part of the state's strategic planning and budgeting process. In fact, the upcoming 2012-14 biennium budget will be the first to be completely developed using the new PB system.
A number of long-term Productivity Investment Fund projects continue to report significant savings for the Commonwealth, as well as aiding participants through innovation and workflow improvements. Here are some highlights:
Mecklenburg County Public Schools: Google Applications Classroom for K-12 Education Mecklenburg
Purpose: A pilot program to replace Microsoft office software in a school division with free Google Applications and then document the results for other school divisions.
Old Dominion University: VIDEO-D-U
Purpose: Replace community college TELECNET sites with online courses. Build video streaming infrastructure to allow widespread course offerings. This results in savings for both the university and the students.
Department of Education partnership with Prince William County Public Schools: Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment Program (VA STAR)
Purpose: To introduce Virginia's students to the field of IT repair. The ultimate goal of the VA STAR program is to create a sustainable educational program that redirects surplus hardware from state agencies or private companies to student IT repair certification courses.
The Council on Virginia’s Future and its Virginia Performs initiative continue to be viewed as models for governments and organizations interested in improving performance and accountability. During the last six months, 2 federal government organizations, 6 states, and the country of Indonesia have all contacted the Council:
Robert F. McDonnell | Vice
Chair: John O.
Executive Director: Jane
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The Council on Virginia's Future produces this newsletter to keep you informed about
performance management in Virginia government -- its goals, methods, results and challenges.
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