Opinion

Measuring Virginia’s performance

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Print this page by Bernie Niemeier

The Council on Virginia’s Future was established in 2003 as an advisory board to the governor and the General Assembly.  Since then, it has provided nonpartisan counsel to Democratic and Republican leaders across the commonwealth.

The council’s major initiative is Virginia Performs, a collection of 49 metrics that measure how well the commonwealth is doing in seven categories. Taken as a whole, these are meant to serve as a performance scorecard for Virginia.

The seven categories are economy, education, health and family, public safety, transportation, natural resources, and government and citizens.  Three to 13 measures are grouped under each category.  Individual measures range from broad ideas, such as business climate and civic engagement, to very specific items, such as infant mortality and poverty rates.

Measures are flagged within each category as improving, maintaining or worsening.  In-state regional trends and national rankings also are provided on measures where such data are available.

So just how does Virginia perform?  Twenty-eight measures show improving performance, 16 measures are maintaining their level of performance, and five are losing ground.

Overall, that seems like a pretty good score, but let’s take a quick look at where Virginia is losing ground:

Poverty: Largely due to the recession, poverty rates have been rising.  In 2011, Virginia’s poverty rate ranked eighth lowest in the nation at 11.5 percent, but regional rates have been as high as 20.5 percent in Southern Virginia and as low as 6.8 percent in Northern Virginia.
Health insurance: Virginia’s rate for uninsured people under 65 was 15.3 percent in 2011.  This was better than the national average of 17.9 percent, but still showed an increase.

Obesity:  Along with the nation, Virginia’s obesity rate has been rising.  The state’s current rate of 29.2 percent is higher than the national obesity rate of 27.8 percent.

Traffic Congestion: In 2011, Virginia had an average commute time of 27.7 minutes, the sixth highest in the nation.

Consumer Protection: Virginia had the seventh-highest rate of reported consumer fraud problems in 2012.

When reporting national rankings, all information is organized into quintiles. At the category level, the commonwealth does best on public safety, education and its economy with more than half of their indicators in the top two quintiles.  Government and health show mixed results across all quintiles.  The lowest category scores are for natural resources and transportation with the majority of their indicators ranking in the bottom two quintiles.

The Virginia Performs scorecard is a helpful tool for seeing not only where the commonwealth excels, but also for seeing where there is work to be done.

Performance measures also are being used by Virginia’s state government. Nearly 90 state agencies are in various stages of adopting strategic plans with more than 1,200 measures being used to track their goals. 

For more information go to: VaPerforms.virginia.gov.


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