Take a look at this recent report from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems about state governments’ efforts to assess college students’ learning.
You’ll see that a handful of states require all students at four-year public colleges to take nationally normed tests of intellectual skills, such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment or ACT’s Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency.
That’s not an obviously crazy idea. It seems reasonable for states to insist on benchmarks for the quality of learning at public institutions. (We’ll assume for the moment that those tests are meaningful and reliable.)
But many states have looser oversight models. When the National Center, known as NCHEMS, asked Hawaii officials if they required assessments of student learning, the answer was, “No. Accreditation standards address this issue.” (See Page 38 of the center’s report.)
And here’s the thing: That’s not an obviously crazy idea, either. The regional accreditor that covers Hawaii has clear expectations (though not requirements) about the public reporting of student learning data. If those policies were toughened a few notches, you could imagine a world where accreditors kept tabs on student learning and state governments found something else to worry about.
That brings us to today’s question for readers: Are we lucky to have so many redundancies built into the American system of higher-education oversight? Will state regulators fix problems that trustees, accreditors, and the marketplace have failed to remedy (and vice versa)? Or does the complexity of our oversight system lead to confusion and buck-passing? Please weigh in in the comments below.
Hello, by the way. This blog will expire at the end of the semester. It’s part of The Chronicle’s continuing series on measuring and improving college quality.
To kick things off, we’ve invited more than a dozen people to write short essays about college-quality mechanisms and their shortcomings. So far we’ve posted four entries:
Peter Ewell, vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, on trustees and governing boards.
Lawrence White, vice president and general counsel of the University of Delaware, on federal (hyper)regulation.
Patrick Allitt, a professor of history at Emory University, on faculty norms of professionalism.
Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, on market forces and the bifurcation of college quality.
More to come tomorrow.