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Benchmark Scores
Benchmarks are groups of conceptually related items that address key areas of student engagement. CCSSE’s five benchmarks denote areas that educational research has shown to be important in quality educational practice. The benchmarks are active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for learners.

Every college has a score for each benchmark, computed by averaging the scores on survey items that comprise that benchmark. Benchmark scores are standardized so that the mean — the average of all participating students — always is 50 and the standard deviation is 25. The most valuable use of benchmarks is to see an individual college’s deviation from the mean, and the standardized score provides an easy way to assess whether an individual college is performing above or below the mean (50) on each benchmark.

How Good Is Good Enough?
The purpose of “benchmarking” is to compare performance of like institutions — and through that process, to identify opportunities for improvement and potential models of “best practice.” But CCSSE and its member colleges must not shy away from the question of whether the performance reflected in survey results is good enough, either for individual institutions or for community colleges nationally. Answering that question often requires looking at data (means and frequencies) for individual survey items associated with the benchmarks.

Thus, CCSSE presents information in two ways: (1) each benchmark, described with a standardized mean of 50, provides an overview of a particular performance area, a way to compare performance on various benchmarks within an institution, and a way to compare performance among groups of similar institutions; and (2) results for individual survey items, presented in absolute terms, are the place to see exactly what is happening and to ask the difficult question, how good is good enough?