Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our thesis.

What: Shares of ITT Educational Services (OTC:ESINQ) were flunking out today, falling as much as 23%, and finishing down 21% after an underwhelming fourth-quarter earnings report.

So what: The for-profit educator has been particularly volatile during the past year, and that pattern continued as revenue fell 12.6%, to $262.9 million, though that actually beat estimates of $260.9 million. Meanwhile, the company saw its per-share loss grow from -$0.41 to -$0.49, as overall enrollment dropped 5.8%, to 57,542. As a silver lining, new student enrollment ticked up 4.5%, to 13,995, but continuing students fell 8.6%, a sign that dropouts are increasing, and that students are perhaps not finding the school worth their investment.

Now what: The for-profit education industry tends to track as a whole, and the group of stocks has begun to battle back recently after two years of sharp declines. The fourth quarter is generally a weak one for ITT, so the loss should not be so surprising. In its earnings call, management forecast EPS for 2014 of $3.00-$3.65 compared to the analyst average at just $3.11. That range would be better than its 2013 total of $2.52, meaning now could be a good time to invest. Still, I'd like to see student enrollment and revenue numbers moving in the right direction first.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.