Assessment Issues

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Higher Learning Commission Documents:

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association is the accrediting body for the University of Northern Iowa.  Below are key documents from the HLC on assessment.


Student Learning, Assessment, and Accreditation:  This document highlights HLC expectations for assessment when it visits campuses.  HLC expects that UNI will be engaging all members of the community in the five key questions listed on this document.  Because these questions are explicitly incorporated into the CHFA SOA yearly report to the Dean, all CHFA programs should be well prepared for the HLC visit.

The Assessment Culture Matrix (2003):  This matrix describes typical stages institutions go through as they develop their assessment processes.   This matrix guides HLC evaluation teams when they come to a campus.   In the last year (2006), HLC staff have emphasized to concerned institutions that the matrix is dynamic.  Not all elements are present on every campus, even when that campus is committed to assessment.  HLC evaluation teams will not deploy the matrix in a rigid manner when they visit campuses.  That said, HLC expects that institutions will evidence mid-level implementation of assessment when evaluation teams visit.   The CHFA Assessment 3- Year Calendar was designed to bring all CHFA programs to the midpoint on the assessment matrix by the time HLC visits UNI.  

HLC Handbook for Accreditation:  See especially Chapter 3 for the criteria for accreditation.  Chapter Three begins with an overview of all five criteria.  An extended narrative on each criterion follows.  Note the centrality of assessment to all criteria.  Note especially the focus on evidence-based assessments of student learning in Criterion Three "Student Learning and Effective Teaching." 


Council of Regional Accrediting Commission Documents: 

Seven regional commissions, including HLC, have joined together to develop these shared recommendations on assessment. 


Assessment, Accreditation, and Student Learning Principles:  This document lists principles that C-RAC commends to its regional accrediting commissions as expectations these commissions should have for themselves.  It also lists principles that the accrediting commissions should reasonably expect of their institutional members. 

Guide for Institutions and Evaluators:  This document offers a framework for implementation of shared principles described in the document above.  Guidelines enable an institution to give a central focus to student learning as a demonstration of institutional quality.  A helpful bibliography is included in this document.


The National Discussion on Assessment:

Listed below in chronological order of publication are some of the documents that are shaping the national conversation about assessment.  


A National Dialogue: The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education Report: This link will take you to the Department of Education where all drafts (6-06--8-06) of the Report by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education are listed.


Improving Student Learning in Higher Education Through Better Accountability and Assessment:  This discussion paper (April 2006) from the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) is a draft for discussion.  NASULGC strongly believes that discussion on accountability and assessment needs to take place within the university community and not only within the public policy and political community.  NASULGC will collaborate closely with AASCU in facilitating this national discussion within higher education.  A follow-up document from NASULGC, "Elements of Accountability for Public Universities and Colleges (7-6-06)" attempts to offer "a reasonable set of accountability measures."  


A Culture of Evidence:  Postsecondary Assessment and Learning Outcomes:  This set of recommendations (June, 2006) to policymakers and the higher education community is from the Educational Testing Service.  Given its significant involvement in the testing arena, ETS is emerging as a key player in the national discussion of assessment.


A Blueprint for Campus Accountability:  Lessons from the Pace University Experience:  This document (2006) is receiving attention in the national higher education press.  David Caputo, President, Pace University believes strongly that universities should take control of the assessment process, not the federal government.   This document is an articulate and detailed report on Pace University's commitment to self-assessment.


Public Accountability for Student Learning in Higher Education:  Issues and Options:  This position paper from the Business-Higher Education Forum (April 2004) was produced in affiliation with the American Council on Education.  It is the product of a working group consisting of business leaders and presidents of major universities.


Rewriting the Rules of the Game:  State Funding, Accountability, and Autonomy in Public Higher Education:  This position paper from the Futures Project of the American Council on Education was published in October, 2004.   


Statement of Mutual Responsibilities for Student Learning Outcomes:  This document (September, 2003) from the Board of Directors for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation is intended "to provide a common platform upon which to develop appropriate policies and review processes that use evidence of student learning to improve practice, to improve communication with important constituents, an to inform judgments about quality."

Roles and Responsibilities in Student Learning and Accreditation - Views from the State Higher Education Executive Officers – May 23, 2007.   These officers are leaders of statewide governing and coordinating boards.   Generally sympathetic to the national call for accountability, SHEEO has attracted some attention with this statement, which asserts that "expanding the scope and force of federal regulation will not be an effective response” to the need for greater accountability in higher education.


National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges Documents


IMPROVING STUDENT LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION THROUGH BETTER ACCOUNTABILITY AND ASSESSMENT:  A NASULGC discussion paper that was sent out in April, 2006 to be reviewed by all NASULGC member presidents and provosts. It’s a discussion paper and not a final product.

Elements of Accountability for Public Universities and Colleges:  Our earlier paper, IMPROVING STUDENT LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION THROUGH BETTER ACCOUNTABILITY AND ASSESSMENTS, explored the nuances of public university accountability. It has enjoyed exposure and stimulated conversation, particularly among NASULGC and AASCU Presidents, Chancellors and Provosts. This July 2006 paper comes out of these conversations and further develops the elements that appear to be important in a true national system of public university accountability.

Toward a Voluntary System of Accountability Program (VSA) For Public Universities and Colleges:  This August, 2006 paper comes out of these conversations and further develops the elements that appear to be important in creating the Voluntary System of Accountability Program (VSA).

On January 10, 2007 Presidents McPherson of NASULGC and Curris of AASCU announced the appointment of 79 presidents, provosts, student affairs and institutional research officers as members of task forces and workgroups to fully develop VSA.  The committee list which includes UNI President Ben Allen) complements this report.

June, 2007 Draft template for the VSA that on approval of NASULGC and AASCU will be offered to universities for implementation.

August 2007 College Portrait VSA update:  Through College Portrait the Voluntary System of Accountability will provide consistent, comparable, and transparent information on the undergraduate student experience to key stakeholders in higher education:  students, parents, legislators, campus faculty and staff.