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Program Evaluation and Assessment: Integrating Methods, Process, and Culture
Unformatted Document Text:  demands for assessment. Many hoped the criticism and corollary demands for assessment would dissipate, but the recent reports from the commission on the future of higher education appointed by Secretary Spellings have actually increased the intensity of the calls for improvement and accountability (Test of Leadership, 2006). After describing the great historic successes of US higher education, the commission’s final report proceeds to describe substantial problems in higher education. It documents a number of negative findings regarding student learning and then asserts, “Compounding all of these difficulties is a lack of clear, reliable information about the cost and quality of postsecondary institutions, along with a remarkable absence of accountability mechanisms to ensure that colleges succeed in educating students.” (12) If the calls for increased quality and accountability were isolated, there would be less for the higher education community to worry about. However, that is not the case. The 2007 rankings by US News and World Report is prefaced with another example of public concern. While the magazine accepts that their measures are not perfect, it notes high levels of favorable public feedback as support for ratings like theirs. The magazine also reminds its critics that the measures were constructed with the assistance of those in the higher education community. Of particular note is Editor Brian Kelly’s assertion that the higher education system continues to be “largely unaccountable.” Thus the reputation and respect for higher education among higher education’s attentive public and the public at large continue to show troubling signs. Given these concerns and increasing economic and educational competition from other countries, it would be imprudent for us to expect the demands for assessment to disappear in the foreseeable future. Leadership and Framing If one accepts that accountability-based assessment mandates are not going away, higher education’s collective interest would best be served if campus leaders are able to find ways to 22

Authors: Young, Candace.
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demands for assessment. Many hoped the criticism and corollary demands for assessment would
dissipate, but the recent reports from the commission on the future of higher education appointed
by Secretary Spellings have actually increased the intensity of the calls for improvement and
accountability (Test of Leadership, 2006). After describing the great historic successes of US
higher education, the commission’s final report proceeds to describe substantial problems in
higher education. It documents a number of negative findings regarding student learning and
then asserts, “Compounding all of these difficulties is a lack of clear, reliable information about
the cost and quality of postsecondary institutions, along with a remarkable absence of
accountability mechanisms to ensure that colleges succeed in educating students.” (12) If the
calls for increased quality and accountability were isolated, there would be less for the higher
education community to worry about. However, that is not the case. The 2007 rankings by US
News and World Report is prefaced with another example of public concern. While the
magazine accepts that their measures are not perfect, it notes high levels of favorable public
feedback as support for ratings like theirs. The magazine also reminds its critics that the
measures were constructed with the assistance of those in the higher education community. Of
particular note is Editor Brian Kelly’s assertion that the higher education system continues to be
“largely unaccountable.” Thus the reputation and respect for higher education among higher
education’s attentive public and the public at large continue to show troubling signs. Given these
concerns and increasing economic and educational competition from other countries, it would be
imprudent for us to expect the demands for assessment to disappear in the foreseeable future.
Leadership and Framing
If one accepts that accountability-based assessment mandates are not going away, higher
education’s collective interest would best be served if campus leaders are able to find ways to
22


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