ISSUE 13  |  SUMMER 2014
Virginia Performs, a signature initiative of the Council, is a performance leadership and accountability system that links a
high-level vision and key goals for citizens with performance-based planning and assessment across all levels of state government.

Virginia Performs: 2014 Trend Changes   back to top

Thumbnail of 2014 Scorecard at a GlanceEach year, Council staff review recent data updates for each indicator on the Scorecard at a Glance to see if trend changes are warranted. The theme for this year's 8 trend shifts might be "holding steady” overall. Performance on 3 indicators has trended upward, while 5 have essentially been maintaining previous performance levels.


Maintaining to Improving

Infrastructure Condition: When you consider that this indicator was in a Worsening state for 4 years (2009-2012), the change this year to Improving is noteworthy. In 2013, 26.1 percent of Virginia's bridges were functionally obsolete or structurally deficient -- the lowest rate in a decade. (Functionally obsolete or structurally deficient bridges are not necessarily unsafe.) In addition, interstate and primary road pavement conditions rated in fair or better condition have worked their way back to 2006 levels, reaching 84.0% and 83.3%, respectively.

Worsening to Maintaining

Health Insurance: The percentage of uninsured Virginians (under the age of 65) has dropped slightly for the second year in a row, falling from a high of 15.7% in 2010 to 14.2% in 2012. Likely a sign of improved employment, this level of uninsured residents equals 2009's rate, but is still higher than the state's 10-year low of 12.9% in 2003.

Obesity: While there are only two years of data available for comparison purposes (due to a recent revision in federal methodology), Virginia experienced a meaningful decline in the adult obesity rate: down to 27.4% in 2012 from 29.2% the year before.

Improving to Maintaining

Personal Income: Virginia continues to add jobs and reduce unemployment, but progress on personal income remains muted. Although 10th highest in the nation, Virginia's average 2013 per capital personal income of $48,773 fell below 2012's recent high of $49,085 (in 2013 dollars), largely due to declines in the Northern region. This 2013 income average remains below Virginia's 2007 peak of $49,347 -- putting the Commonwealth among 20 states across the country that have struggled to return to pre-recession levels.

School Readiness: Virginia Performs uses the PALS-K (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening for Kindergarten) to identify young students who are below kindergarten-level expectations in important literacy fundamentals. The percentage of children meeting this benchmark has been uneven in most regions since 2011; 2013 rates averaged out to 87.5% --slightly below the 2011 average of 87.6%.

College Graduation: College enrollments and degrees awarded continue to increase in Virginia. What's not increasing, however, are graduation rates -- the percentage of students earning degrees within 150% of the normal two- or four-year time frames. According to national data, the six-year graduation rate for bachelor's degrees has been flat since 2008, with rates of 63.0% (2008), 63.2% (2009), 62.8% (2010), and 62.9% (2011). Virginia has now been out of the top ten for two years - 12th in 2010 and 11th in 2011. The three-year graduation rate for associate's degrees peaked in 2009 (29.6%), falling slightly in 2010 (29.5%) and again in 2011 (27.3%).

Recidivism: Rates for adult and juvenile recidivism -- rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration -- have mostly remained flat since 2007, especially when looking at the full 3-year cohort measures.

Traffic Fatalities: The traffic fatality rate per 100,000 population has remained relatively stable for the last four years: 2009 was at 9.6; 2010 at 9.2; 2011 at 9.4; and 2012 at 9.5 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people.    end of story

Agencies Make Progress on Key Enterprise Goals    back to top

One of the underlying principles behind Virginia Performs is to clarify and strengthen the alignment between Virginia's broadest goals -- "a vibrant economy," "educational excellence," "superior governance" -- and what state government actually does every day.

Thumbnail of Virginia Performs Architecture graphic.Most recently, our focus has been on improving assessment at the enterprise level of government -- looking at the highest priorities and goals for Virginia's executive branch, and seeing how the efforts of state agencies and their partners leads to progress on important outcomes, many of which are beyond the scope of a single agency.

State government is now using several tools to both capture and better gauge performance across the enterprise: Enterprise Priorities formalize and set targets for the state's most important goals, while 3 issue-specific report cards identify and track the key factors that affect progress with the state's workforce system, its economic innovation and entrepreneurship, and state government operations. (See Story 3 for a look at how these report cards are shedding new light on opportunities for improved performance assessment at the agency and enterprise levels of government.)

What follows is the first in a series of articles showcasing how agencies -- often working in concert across Secretariats -- are tackling some of Virginia's biggest challenges.

Reclaiming the Chesapeake Bay

Virginia's Eastern Shore.The Chesapeake Bay has played a pivotal role in Virginia's economy and quality of life for centuries, and its status has long been an enterprise priority for the state. Unfortunately, decades of neglect, pollution, and overfishing have had devastating effects on the Bay's health and continue to threaten such previously abundant species as blue crabs, oysters, and striped bass. [Some telling statistics: About 17 million bushels of oysters were harvested during the heyday of the oysterman in the 1880s; by 2011 that amount had plummeted to fewer than 400,000 bushels. Scientists estimate that today's Bay oyster population is less than 1% of what it was 150 years ago.]

As a result, commercial fishing in the Chesapeake has been seriously restricted. But the effects reach much further: The entire ecosystem surrounding the Bay has been struggling and the effects on human quality of life -- from recreational fishing to wildlife viewing -- have been significant.

Decades of Effort

Efforts to improve water quality in the Bay began in earnest with the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The initial focus was on controlling pollution from what are called point sources -- usually facility-based pollution generators such as industrial plants, municipal waste water treatment plants, and animal feedlots.

Stormwater runoff on a city street.Over time, more focus has been placed on non-point sources such as farms, parks, golf courses, suburban greens, and urban/suburban stormwater run-off (where, thanks to the prevalence of paved roads and other impervious surfaces, polluted waters are forced directly into municipal streams). Recent data from BayStat shows that non-point sources now account for 75% or more of the unwanted sediments and nitrogen and phosphorus contaminants entering the Bay.

The challenges are enormous. Data from the Chesapeake Bay Program tells the story:

  • The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes parts of six states and drains an enormous 64,000 square-mile area. (13.8 million acres in Virginia)
  • The Bay watershed is home to more than 17 million people, with about 150,000 more moving in each year. Many are still unaware of the negative effects their widespread use of lawn and garden fertilizers and other products has on the Bay.
  • There are 18,000 local governments in the watershed, including towns, cities, counties, and townships.
  • More than 100,000 streams, creeks, and rivers thread through the Bay area and feed the 150 or so streams, creeks, and rivers that drain directly into it.

With 2 of the 3 large rivers emptying into the Bay (the James and Potomac; Pennsylvania's Susquehanna is the largest of the three), Virginia plays a vital role in the multi-state partnership committed to restoring the Bay to full health. The state has participated in every partnership agreement and is a signatory to the most recent, the Watershed Implementation Plan, which commits the state to yearly reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment levels in the Bay. A new agreement for 2014 and beyond is still in the draft stages.

Some Hopeful Signs

Although far more work remains, some progress has been made in stemming the tide of pollutants. As reported on Virginia Performs, nitrogen pollution from Virginia has fallen from a total of 68.1 million pounds in 2009 to 61.2 million in 2012; discharges of phosphorus have also dropped -- from 8.7 million pounds in 2009 to 8.2 million in 2012. Sediment pollution targets are also included in the Watershed Implementation Plan; in 2012, 3.5 trillion pounds of sediment made their way from Virginia sources into the Chesapeake Bay, with a plan goal of reducing that to 3.3 trillion pounds by 2025.

A Virginia blue crab caught in a net.These and other efforts (including restrictions on fishing) are beginning to yield results. The Chesapeake Bay's adult population of blue crabs reached a record 20-year high of 764 million in 2012, after emergency management measures were put into place in 2008 to address severe population declines; however, that progress has been mitigated by the unexplained loss of millions of young blue crabs the following year.

Virginia has also made some headway in helping to restore the habitat around both the Bay and its myriad feeder streams: planting underwater grasses, restoring wetlands, and establishing forest buffers.

The restoration of native oyster populations is an additional and important goal, as oysters serve as natural water filters and are key to keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean. Recent efforts include "reseeding" local reefs with shells and other matter to encourage oyster settlements. Another new project hopes to boost oyster stocks along the Piankatank River. A joint venture of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, The Nature Conservancy the Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it is also part of the Corps' goal to restore 10 Virginia tributaries for native oysters by 2025.

Agency Roles

Within Virginia, the Department of Environmental Quality has the most direct responsibility for improving water quality, especially since many water-related regulatory programs were moved to the agency in 2013. Still, the predominance of non-point sources of Bay pollution has made a much broader-based effort vital if real progress is to continue.

Chart showing agencies working to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. See text and larger chart for explanation.The chart at left shows how 4 key agencies contribute to protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as Virginia's overall water quality; it also highlights the alignment of enterprise- and agency-level planning and performance management with the state's highest goals.

But other agencies also play important roles:

For much more detailed information on the roles of each environmental agency and of others who have tangential roles, see the Agency Planning and Performance section on Virginia Performs. You can also check out Water Quality on Virginia Performs for more detailed pollution data and helpful agency and program links. end of story

Assessment in a New Light  back to top

Green spotlight on a queston mark. See story for context.One mantra of performance management is "You can't manage -- or improve -- what you don't measure." Certain issues, however, can be a real challenge to capture in a way that reveals the true drivers of progress, particularly those that focus on outcomes, rather than processes.

Thanks to collaborations with leading state agencies and organizations, Virginia Performs now offers issue-specific report cards that identify and track the key factors influencing performance in 3 important areas:

  • Virginia's Workforce System Report Card, developed by the Council in collaboration with the Governor's Office, the Virginia Workforce Council, and other workforce partners, is designed to provide a clarifying view into how well Virginia's multi-layered and extensive workforce system is performing. First released in late 2012, it has since been revised with improved measures, while performance trends have been adjusted to reflect the latest realities.
  • The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Report Card, designed in collaboration with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), is an offshoot of CIT's new Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System and helps track our progress in strengthening key drivers of economic growth.
  • The State Government Operations Report Card provides an informative overview of the effectiveness and efficiency of state government operations.

But assessment doesn't stop here. Agencies are working hard to deepen their understanding of performance in light of what these report cards reveal about higher-level outcomes. In addition, the report cards are exposing areas where the Commonwealth could benefit from stronger assessment capabilities.

Workforce System Report Card

Virginia's workforce system involves numerous agencies, different levels of government, and many public and private service providers. The Workforce System Report Card (WSRC) cuts across all these organizational boundaries and simply presents the system's chief goals and the measures used to track progress in reaching them. Agencies with a stake in workforce development are using the report card to gain better insights into related programs.

Clearly, educational attainment is a critical piece of the workforce picture. New metrics introduced on the 2014 report card include STEM-H Dual Enrollment credits and Advanced Placement exams (STEM-H Pipeline), High School graduation (Secondary Educational Attainment), and Algebra II achievement (Career and College Readiness). At the same time, indicators related to adult secondary achievement were revised to better and more accurately measure how well Virginia's adult education programs are reaching those Virginians who specifically need such services.

Still, room for improvement always remains. Using a powerful new tool -- the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) -- the Office of Adult Education and Literacy within the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) is leading the way on improving performance assessment. 

Because its data is based on actual cohorts of Virginia students, the VLDS will allow agencies, researchers, and decision-makers to move beyond process measures of performance (e.g., graduation or completion rates) to outcome measures of performance (e.g., the jobs and wages attained by those graduates). Two studies are underway:

  • DOE will complete a study this summer using VLDS data to determine the long-term outcomes in postsecondary completion, employment, and wages for students who completed the Virginia GED and PluggedIn VA programs. Both programs are designed to increase the number of adult learners who 1) get a high school diploma or equivalent, 2) enter postsecondary education and/or training, and 3) get and keep a job.
  • Another research project will compare outcomes between participants in PluggedIn VA programs with other adult education services. This 3-year study will divide 400 students between the two programs and assess long-term outcomes -- again, in terms of postsecondary achievement, jobs, and wages.

Government Operations Report Card

Since the State Government Operations Report Card was just released in late 2013, its effects are only now beginning to emerge. But by revealing important gaps in what we are readily able to measure and assess, the report card has already identified areas where the state could improve its assessment on 3 important indicators:

Customer Satisfaction. Virginia's "customers" are its citizens, particularly those getting services or interacting directly with state government in some way. Many of Virginia's larger citizen-facing agencies -- e.g., the DMV and the ABC -- have made notable efforts to improve their customer service.

However, we have discovered that assessment of customer service is not consistent across the enterprise. Customer satisfaction data is not readily available for some key agencies and the information we do have is not necessarily comparable across the board. Yet state government -- and Virginians -- would benefit by increasing the visibility and quality of its customer satisfaction assessment and by working to ensure that best practices are readily shared across the enterprise.

Facilities Construction and Maintenance. The Commonwealth maintains an extensive portfolio of lands and buildings -- from the seat of government in Richmond to colleges and universities, prisons, agency offices, and other facilities across the state -- that total more than 129 million square feet and more than 425,000 acres of land.

Given that the average age of state buildings is 42 years, Virginia continues to invest heavily in maintaining and upgrading these facilities. While the state works hard to protect its capital investments, it does not have ready access to the data needed to ensure that it remains a "best managed state." Two information gaps we noted:

  • A Senate Finance Committee review revealed that the Commonwealth does not maintain a comprehensive inventory of capital assets in a single, integrated database accessible to all involved / interested parties. In addition, lack of standardized data makes it difficult to estimate the reserve funds needed for annual maintenance. As of the beginning of FY 2013, the Department of Planning and Budget had documented $699 million in critical maintenance reserve projects, of which only $112.4 million had funding sources available.
  • The Department of General Services cannot readily supply an overview of the on-time and on-budget status of state office constructions projects. The issue is not whether projects are being well managed -- reports show that they are -- but that information about that status cannot readily be provided because of the way the state funds these projects.

Leadership Development and Succession Planning. Between 2003 and 2013, the average age of the Virginia state worker increased by a little more than 2 years, to 46.7 years old. An uptick of 2 years might not seem like much, but in recent strategic planning reports many agencies large and small identified "an aging workforce" as an important issue. (This is in fact a common concern across the United States.)

As a result, agencies are having to invest more in identifying and developing the talent needed to replace retiring technical staff, managers, and other key agency personnel. Yet we lack useful information to track our performance in this critical area, especially considering the importance that agency leaders are placing on it.   end of story