Institutional Accountability and Assessment Programs

Many institutions have created their own forms of self-assessment in response to increased demands for accountability. Frequently, these are campus-wide accountability plans that rely on a combination of student engagement tests and learning outcome assessment rubrics. These assessment mechanisms are sometimes developed by the institution or by an outside organization and adopted for use at the college or university. They typically focus on multiple measures of student, faculty, departmental and institutional "success" to demonstrate that the institution is performing well and meeting high standards when it comes to educational quality. The description of SUNY Geneseo's and the University of Arizona's assessment programs are examples of what many institutions have implemented to demonstrate accountability.

We could profile many institutions that have similar accountability and assessment programs — but we are more interested in learning about alternative measures of success that institutions of higher education have embraced, such as the University of Alaska at Anchorage's alternate graduation rate formula. Because these programs can be difficult to find, please e-mail us with information about institutional assessment and accountability programs or initiatives that demonstrated altrenative measures of success.

Examples of Typical Institutional Assessment and Accountability Plans

State University of New York — Geneseo

SUNY Geneseo has built a comprehensive Web page that includes a description of SUNY-wide procedures for assessing general education, Geneseo's general education assessment plan, general education outcomes, rubrics and assessment reports, timetables and reporting instructions, individual academic programs' stated learning outcomes, links to other assessment resources and even an assessment blog.

While there is a heavy emphasis on defining learning outcomes and implementing assessment mechanisms of these learning outcomes, the Assessment Planning Committee (APC) does not attempt to evaluate, on the basis of assessment results, whether a program or general education area is teaching students successfully. As its Web site states, the committee's business is with evaluating assessment procedure only, not with the interpreting assessment results.

Click here to visit SUNY Geneseo's Academic Assessment homepage.

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona has assembled the Assessment Coordinating Council (ACC) to coordinate all assessment initiatives throughout the campus. In addition, the campus community can access a central Web site to learn about assessment expectations, ideas, activities, results, and models for all departments and programs.

Arizona's academic assessment plan extends to both their undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Each academic degree program is given quite a bit of autonomy in determining what the academic goals should be for students; however, they must follow the same rubric: a) determine desired outcomes, b) select multiple measures for each outcome being measured, c) set standards; benchmarks, d) carry out assessment, tally and analyze results, and e) use results to improve the program and fine-tune assessment process.

Campus-level assessments come in the form of various questionnaires. Surveys are given to several different subgroups: new students, transfer students, graduating seniors and graduates (alumni). These surveys cover everything from reasons for choosing a particular major to the number of research projects one completed with a faculty member outside of class. Select groups have also completed a Student Experience Questionnaire and the National Survey and Student Engagement (NSSE).

Arizona also uses comprehensive surveys to rate the success of their student support services. Arizona requires that each unit in student affairs determines the desired student outcome for involvement in programs and a reliable way to obtain and apply new data to each program in order to improve its implementation. Surveys and questionnaires have been completed concerning the following student affairs elements: student services fees, learning services, campus safety, pre-orientation, post-orientation and possible future products and services.

Click here to visit the University of Arizona's assessment website.

Institutionally-developed alternative measures of success

University of Alaska at Anchorage's Alternate Graduation Rate Formula

The University of Alaska at Anchorage was profiled in this Inside Higher Ed article as an institution that presented an alternative measure of success and committed to implementing it. Specifically, Anchorage has formulated its own graduation rate measure to include the remaining 95 percent of incoming students who don't fit into the old federal graduation rate formula that considers success to be graduation with a degree within six years. Instead of using that six-year metric, Anchorage increased the time to degree to 10 years after learning that 95 percent of its students do achieve degrees in that time frame. Part-time and transfer students are also included in the formula. Finally, Anchorage also tracks students' goals, asking them questions upon entry that include "Did you transfer? Did you achieve a degree? Did you earn grades that qualify you to stay on track to achieve a degree?"

Through tracking students' goals, Anchorage comes up with two primary measures: one, 34 percent of those admitted in the last 10-year cohort measure met their educational degree goal, and two, an additional 50 percent "made progress" toward a goal. This new metric allows Anchorage to look at subgroups in more meaningful ways and assess how those individuals are making progress and realizing success.