The Measuring Stick Finale: A Hawk and a Skeptic Walk Into a Bar …

As promised, this blog will expire with the calendar year (cue violins).

In this last post, I’ve tried to distill some fundamental arguments about assessment and accountability in higher education. I’ve borrowed liberally from comments that readers have left here and elsewhere on The Chronicle’s site. Many thanks to all of you for reading and arguing.

Of course there are more than two sides to these debates. In that respect, what follows is pathetically reductive. But I’ve tried not to put my…


U. of Phoenix Reports on Students’ Academic Progress

The University of Phoenix has released its third “Academic Annual Report,” a document that continues to be notable not so much for the depth of information it provides on its students’ academic progress but for its existence at all. Few colleges, for-profit or otherwise, publish such reports.

Matthew Denhart, administrative director at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, an organization that advocates for greater transparency and accountability about student learning in higher…


6-Year Graduation Rates: a 6-Minute Primer

It is a deeply flawed measure of college performance, but it is also one of the best we have.

Today The Chronicle published an analysis of recent changes in the six-year graduation rates at nearly 1,400 colleges. At most institutions, the rate ticked up at least modestly between 2003 and 2008. But at 35 percent of the colleges in the data set, the rate declined, in some cases steeply.

In other words, despite all the attention thrown at graduation rates during the last 15 years, many colleges’ …


Graduate Deans: Do You Know Where Your Alumni Are?

” />

During a panel on Thursday morning at the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools, two deans asked the same questions that were raised by Robin Wilson in The Chronicle this week: Do graduate schools keep adequate track of what happens to their alumni? If not, why not?

“At most graduate schools, there appears to be very little central data collection about career outcomes,” said Patricia G. Calarco, dean of the graduate division at the University of California at San Francisco….


Measurement of ‘Learning Outcomes’ Comes to Graduate School

Graduate-level programs were once relatively immune from pressure to define and measure “learning outcomes” for their students. But for good or ill, the student-learning-assessment movement has begun to migrate from the undergraduate world into master’s and doctoral programs. (At some institutions, there is even talk of defining a set of “foundational outcomes” for all graduate students—that is, a set of learning goals that would be analogous to general-education goals for undergraduates.)

On We…


Measuring Student Learning: Many Tools

Suppose that you’ve served on a faculty committee that has devised a list of collegewide learning objectives for your undergraduates.

You don’t want that list to just sit there on a Web site as a testimony to your college’s good intentions. (Right?) You want to take reasonable steps to measure whether your students are actually meeting the goals you’ve defined.

How best to do that is, of course, a highly contested question.

Some scholars urge colleges to use nationally normed tests, like the Col…


A Final Word on the Presidents’ Student-Learning Alliance

Last week we published a series of comments (one, two, three) on the Presidents’ Alliance for Excellence in Student Learning and Accountability. Today we’re pleased to present a reply from David C. Paris, executive director of the presidential alliance’s parent organization, the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability:

I was very pleased to see the responses to the announcement of the Presidents’ Alliance as generally welcoming (“commendable,” “laudatory initiative,…


Reactions to the Presidents’ Alliance, Part 3

The final entry in our series of comments on the Presidents’ Alliance for Excellence in Student Learning and Accountability.

Michael Poliakoff, policy director at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni:

We applaud the desire of university presidents to improve student learning and accountability on their campuses, although the idea is hardly new. A number of institutions in the alliance, in fact, distinguished themselves by their work in assessment and accountability for student learning be…


Reactions to the Presidents’ Alliance, Part 2

Here’s round two of our series of comments on the Presidents’ Alliance for Excellence in Student Learning and Accountability.  Today, two social scientists weigh in.

Josipa Roksa, assistant professor of sociology at the U. of Virginia and co-author of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (forthcoming in January from the U. of Chicago Press):

The Presidents’ Alliance for Excellence signifies the growing attention of higher-education leadership to student learning, which is …


Reactions to the Presidents’ Alliance, Part 1

Ten days ago, we wrote about the Presidents’ Alliance for Excellence in Student Learning and Accountability, a new effort in which 71 college and university presidents have promised to take specific steps to improve teaching and learning on their campuses within two years.

We’ve invited several people to take a look at those 71 pledges and to share their thoughts, and we’ll present their comments this week. In this first round, we’ve got William Chace and Cliff Adelman.

William M. Chace, preside…