assessmentaccountability

Essay on how to talk about assessment in faculty job interviews

At many interviews for faculty jobs these days, you'll be asked about assessment. Melissa Dennihy offers some ideas on how to answer.

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Bill Gates on College Completion

Bill Gates is among a group of rich college dropouts people often cite when questioning the value of a college degree. He isn't buying that argument.

“Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success,” Gates wrote on Wednesday.

Gates published two blog entries encouraging more people to earn college credentials to help them get jobs. He cited data from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, which projects a shortage in the U.S. of 11 million skilled workers with college degrees over the next decade.

The blog entries included a video interview (below) with Cheryl Hyman, the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. Hyman, who dropped out of high school, has led an aggressive campaign to increase the urban community college system's low graduation rate, which stood at 7 percent when she arrived in 2010. It has since doubled to 14 percent.

“Cheryl and I discussed the need for colleges to create a less confusing course selection process. Students often waste time and valuable credit hours taking classes that don’t help them progress toward graduation because they don’t understand the degree requirements,” Gates wrote. “New personalized online guidance tools provide students with clear, semester-by-semester maps to graduation and a career.”

Gates also touted City Colleges' increased focus on careers, its addition of student supports and its efforts to redesign remedial math.

Accreditors Back Joint Approach to Competency-Based Education

A group representing the seven regional accrediting agencies has developed a common framework for assessing and approving competency-based education programs proposed by their member institutions. The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, known as C-RAC, released the framework for the emergent form of higher education program late Monday. A news release about the framework notes that there has been relatively little guidance about the characteristics of high-quality programs and the expectations that accreditors and the federal government have for institutions that seek to establish the programs. The Obama administration is soon expected to release its own guidance for competency-based programs that seek approval to operate under the experimental sites program the Education Department has created to allow deviation from certain federal rules.

“The key is to promote this expansion of CBE while also ensuring the quality and integrity of the academic program,” Barbara Brittingham, president of the higher education commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and chair of C-RAC, said in a news release. “Between our statement and the new guidance from the Department of Education, we believe these goals can be accomplished, thereby supporting increased innovation at our member institutions.”

Rural Students Less Likely to Enroll and Persist

Rural high school students in Oregon were less likely to enroll and persist in college, according to a new study from REL Northwest, a regional research group that receives funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The study tracked students in Oregon who began high school between 2005 and 2007. It found that 55 percent of rural students enrolled in college, compared to 63 percent of nonrural students. Likewise, 78 percent of rural students persisted into their second year of college, compared to 83 percent of their nonrural peers. Those gaps were apparent even when the study controlled for students' performance on state assessments, and they occurred at all types of colleges.

Students Feel Unprepared for Job Market

Only one in five college students say they feel "very prepared" to join the workforce, according to the results of McGraw-Hill Education's annual student workforce readiness survey. While 45 percent of the roughly 1,000 respondents said they feel "somewhat prepared" to begin a career after college, slightly more than half said they did not learn how to write a résumé. And 56 percent did learn how to conduct themselves in a job interview. The survey found that less than one-third of students said career services on campus were effective. Only 14 percent reported using career services frequently, with nearly a quarter saying they never used career services.

Ivy Bridge Sues Accreditor Over Closure

The owner of the defunct Ivy Bridge College has sued the Higher Learning Commission over the institution's demise two years ago. The lawsuit, which Ivy Bridge filed in a federal court last week, alleges that the accreditor unlawfully shut down the college as part of a politically motivated "witch hunt."

Ivy Bridge was an unusual public-private partnership between Tiffin University, a small nonprofit institution located in Ohio, and Altius Education, a Silicon Valley-based education technology company. The two entities paired up to offer online, two-year degrees under the Ivy Bridge brand. It enrolled roughly 3,000 students in 2013.

The commission raised questions about Ivy Bridge's ownership structure, arguing that Altius had too much control of the program. The accreditor, affiliated with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, also criticized aspects of the academic quality of the degree tracks, although it had praised Ivy Bridge in previous years. Tiffin was forced to withdraw from the partnership as a result of the commission's scrutiny, and Ivy Bridge and Altius collapsed.

Ivy Bridge's lawsuit claims the commission failed to follow its legal standards during its "complete sham" of a crackdown on the partnership. "HLC was under political pressure to kill nontraditional higher education, so that's what it did," the lawsuit said.

Colorado's New Policy on Prior Learning

Colorado will standardize how its public colleges grant credit for prior learning, The Denver Post reports. The Colorado Higher Education Commission will create a comprehensive, statewide prior-learning assessment policy, which it said will provide more consistency and transparency. However, the state's colleges will have a chance to weigh in on the standards before they are finalized, the commission said.

"One of the main goals directing this work is to ensure that PLA credits earned at one public institution will be accepted in transfer and apply to equivalent general education requirements at any receiving public institution," said the commission, "and to unify equivalently applied cut scores for major and elective credit to the greatest extent possible."

Report on Use of Data to Gauge College Attainment

How one gauges the scope and extent of the problem the United States has with postsecondary attainment and crafts possible solutions depends in large part on the data used to assess the situation, argues a report being released at an event in Washington today. The report, funded by the National Science Foundation and produced by American Institutes for Research and George Washington University's Graduate School of Education and Human Development, examines how different data sources offer divergent answers to fundamental questions, such as the rate at which four-year college students earn bachelor's degrees and how big gender and racial attainment gaps are. (Note: Inside Higher Ed's Doug Lederman moderated a panel discussion at Monday's event.)

Performance-Funding Bill Advances in Texas

The Texas Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would require public colleges to meet several performance standards in order to increase tuition rates beyond the rate of inflation. Performance-based funding formulas, while controversial, are becoming more popular among state legislatures. The bill in Texas, which now goes to the state House for consideration, likely will draw national attention.

The 11 performance requirements in the proposed legislation include measures of graduation rates, student completion milestones, the number of degrees earned by at-risk students and the institution's administrative costs. 

In 2003 the Texas Legislature ceded its ability to set tuition rates at the state's public institutions. That move was a response in part to deep budget cuts, The Dallas Morning News reported. But tuition has risen quickly since then, said lawmakers who support the bill.

“The cost of college education has skyrocketed to where students are being priced out of higher education altogether or required to take out exorbitant student loans to finance their education,” said State Senator Charles Schwertner, a Republican, according to the Dallas newspaper.

Colleges begin to take notice of Common Core

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A growing number of states and colleges are beginning to use Common Core-based assessments to determine student placement and college readiness. 

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