Assessment is not Going Away
It is not a fad. I got involved in my first assessment project in 1988, twenty years ago, and if anything the call is becoming shriller and more insistent. The 2006 Spellings Report put the measurement of student learning at the center of its recommendations. The Commissioners wrote:
"Student achievement, which is inextricably connected to institutional success, must be measured by institutions on a "value-added" basis that takes into account students' academic baseline when assessing their results. This information should be made available to students, and reported publicly in aggregate form to provide consumers and policymakers an accessible, understandable way to measure the relative effectiveness of different colleges and universities." (Section 1:4)
And their call is for quantifiable results, preferably from external vendors who will charge a lot of money to purchase instruments which, while they may not be closely connected with our educational mission, will allow us to be compared with other colleges and universities, thus encouraging further the business of college ranking:
"Higher education institutions should measure student learning using quality-assessment data from instruments such as, for example, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which measures the growth of student learning taking place in colleges, and the Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress, which is designed to assess general education outcomes for undergraduates in order to improve the quality of instruction and learning." (p. 23)And calls of this kind are generating a multi-million dollar industry in standardized testing and other measurement procedures, which we can now add to the SAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT that already suck up our students' time and money. Before we begin to pour money into external forms of evaluation, let's use some common sense and see what we can do for ourselves. Let's try to cut through the bureaucratise. Most importantly, let's ask "what's in it for us?" How can we make assessment work for us by crafting plans that give us useful information that we want and can use?
 "A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U. S. Higher Education," issued by the Commission appointed by Margaret Spellings, U. S. Secretary of Education.
 Ouch! Ugly dangling participle Commissioners!