FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Christopher T. Cory, Pace University, 212-346-1117, cell 917-608-8164, firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Lentini, M Booth & Associates, 212-481-7000 ext 601, email@example.com
CASE STUDY OF NEW WAYS TO JUDGE COLLEGES
ISSUED BY PACE UNIVERSITY AS NATIONAL DEBATE HEATS UP
Pace president Caputo urges federal commission on future of higher education
to support assessment techniques but avoid standardized measures
New York, NY, (August 8, 2006) – The standardized “high-stakes testing” approach mandated for public schools by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation is not the way to improve U.S. colleges and universities.
However, the nation’s campuses can and should use emerging new assessment techniques to measure how effectively they promote learning, and to get better at it.
Those are among the conclusions of “A Blueprint for Campus Accountability: Lessons from the Pace University Experience,” a new case study of the increasing trend toward using assessment to hold colleges accountable for what they do and help prospective students and parents judge them.
The 32-page report on assessment on its campuses is being issued by Pace University, a private, 14,000-student, multicampus metropolitan institution that typifies many aspects of US higher education.
The Pace report is being sent to legislators and policymakers, specifically including the Commission on the Future of Higher Education set up last year by U.S. Education Commissioner Margaret Spellings. The commission is scheduled to make recommendations at the end of this summer and has made no secret of its “sympathy for measuring higher education,” says Pace President David A. Caputo.
The report draws together detailed examples of how assessment can work in the real world, describing several dozen kinds of self-assessments that Pace has adopted in the last half-decade to improve its teaching and learning. It is available online at www.pace.edu/assessment.
“What really pays off.” “Commonly-used measures of colleges and universities are not the best ones,” said Caputo. “Assessment at Pace tries to gauge actual learning rather than counting imprecise proxies like books in the library or the size of the endowment. We no longer need to rely on those inputs, and the proof is in the new measures that show what really pays off in student success. We’re not afraid to try out these new techniques, and think US higher education needs to push the boundaries on this. We want to deliver for our students, and we’re starting to have the tools to show it.”
Any approach leading to “uniform national testing” would be “neither practical nor desirable” for colleges and universities, Caputo writes in his introduction to the report.
On the other hand Caputo favors more use of self-assessment methods that individual campuses can select and use to gauge for themselves the results of their widely-differing approaches. Highly-diverse philosophies and methods are the hallmark of the rich “mosaic” of American higher education, he writes.
A political scientist trained at Yale, Caputo points out Pace’s early use of new methods that are quite different from those “at the heart of rankings like those of US News & World Report magazine.”
The report spotlights some of them, in particular the NSSE or National Survey of Student Engagement, and the CLA, or Collegiate Learning Assessment, an assessment of multidisciplinary abilities like critical thinking.
The report describes how Pace also has been in the forefront of using non-quantitative techniques for encouraging faculty members to assemble and analyze “portfolios” of their teaching materials and results. And the document narrates some of the techniques the University adopted to encourage faculty and staff members to be more assessment-conscious.
“The best lesson from our self-assessment efforts has been that self-assessment is not a vehicle for keeping score, but for getting better,” Caputo writes.
Federal incentives, state administration. Based on the experience at Pace, Caputo urges Federal policies that would insist that colleges and universities have ongoing self-assessment processes. He also favors federal financial “incentives” for developing evaluation tools. “To encourage local variations and experiments,” he says, “federal funds should be administered by the states.”
Celebrating its centennial in 2006, Pace University is known for an outcome-oriented environment that prepares students to succeed in a wide-range of professions. Pace has facilities in downtown and midtown New York City and in Westchester County at Pleasantville, Briarcliff, and White Plains (a graduate center and law school). A private metropolitan university, Pace enrolls approximately 14,000 students in undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programs in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Ivan G. Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Law School, Lienhard School of Nursing, Lubin School of Business, and School of Education. www.pace.edu.