Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, January 20, 2012 - 3:00am

One of the holy grails for some players in the student learning outcomes movement is an assessment of an individual's skills or learning that employers might eventually accept in lieu of a college-awarded credential. Several major testing organizations have been building individualized versions of instruments that are most commonly used as institutional measures, and Thursday two of them -- ETS and the Council for Aid to Education -- announced that they were making those tests available to individuals through StraighterLine, which has made a name for itself to date by offering low-cost, online courses directly to students. Under the new arrangement, known as MyLine, beginning next fall students will be able to take ETS's Proficiency Profile and iSkills assessments or CAE's Collegiate Learning Assessment to try to prove their abilities to think critically, solve problems, or do the other things the tests aim to measure.

Officials of the companies -- which tend to sell their assessment products directly to institutions -- said via e-mail that StraighterLine was not the only channel they would use to offer the individualized versions of the assessments directly to students. "We want to deal more directly with learners in the future and we will," said Tom Ewing, a spokesman for ETS. "However, this agreement with StraighterLine allows us to gauge the interest and demand for such products and services, and to do so in cooperation with a company that already occupies that space."

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Pat Werhane of DePaul University reveals the psychological factors that contribute to recidivism in the American criminal justice system. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 3:00am

A federal panel continued Thursday to discuss ways to measure program quality at teacher education programs, the second of three days of discussion to kick off the process aimed at recommending new rules to govern how the nation's teachers are trained. The conversations, part of the Obama administration's push to change teacher education, focused on what information states should be required, or encouraged, to collect on teacher preparation programs, and what those programs should have to tell their students if they are considered unsuccessful and forced to shut down. But a central question, as yet unanswered, is whether the Education Department can dictate the states' evaluation criteria at all.

Meetings continue today, when the panel will tackle the definition of a "high-quality teacher preparation program."

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 4:31am

The University of California at San Francisco, a powerhouse in medical education and research, is pushing for much more autonomy from the University of California, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The university says it doesn't want to secede, but does want its own board and to be free of fees it pays the central university. Further, officials question the need to participate in numerous discussions within the university about issues such as undergraduate education, which doesn't exist at UCSF. Officials of the medical campus say that they need the greater independence to focus resources on their programs.



Friday, January 20, 2012 - 4:34am

Mountain State University's board on Thursday announced that it had fired Charles H. Polk as president. The Charleston Gazette noted that the West Virginia university had been facing accreditation problems both as an institution and for its nursing program, as well as criticism of Polks 7-figure compensation package.

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education and other higher education groups have filed a brief with the Colorado Supreme Court backing the right of the University of Colorado Board of Regents to dismiss Ward Churchill as a tenured professor of ethnic studies on the Boulder campus. Churchill has challenged the firing (unsuccessfully until now), arguing that he was dismissed, in violation of his First Amendment and academic freedom rights, because of his controversial writings. The university system says that the reason he was fired was for repeated instances of faculty misconduct, and that panels of professors played key roles in identifying these instances and concluding that they represented unprofessional conduct.

The brief filed by the college groups states that the principles of academic freedom should result in support for the university's position. "Because universities are the entities best suited to make decisions about their faculties, they are entitled to autonomy in adjudicating claims regarding academic integrity," the brief says.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 3:00am

About 43,000 Americans are enrolled in degree programs outside the United States, with a plurality (44 percent) pursuing master's degrees, 39 percent seeking undergraduate diplomas, and 17 percent in doctoral programs, according to a study released Wednesday by the Institute for International Education. The report, a supplement to the institute's annual Open Doors report on the flow of students into and out of the United States, was done in conjunction with Project Atlas. The leading fields for degree study were the humanities, social sciences, and business and management, and Britain was the top destination.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 3:00am

An Iowa State University professor whose class on applying Biblical principles to business was canceled now says he disagrees with parts of a controversial textbook he planned to use. That book was among the reasons faculty members cited when protesting the course, saying it was inappropriately religious for a public university.

Professor Roger Stover, who declined to speak with Inside Higher Ed for the initial story, wrote Wednesday that his class was to be “a critical evaluation of a popular book’s prescriptions.” The text, Dave Anderson’s How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business, at one point advises Christians not to go into business with nonbelievers.

In a statement released to Inside Higher Ed Wednesday evening, Stover called that an “extreme recommendation." Stover added that “I professionally disagree with much of the book’s recommendation on borrowing money.”

The professor said he planned to focus his one-credit, independent study class on chapters like “Four Mandates to Maximize Your Time” and “How to Lead Through a Crisis.”

“This was a proposed business management class,” Stover wrote. “These are hardly theological issues – they are management issues.”

Stover’s course was called off after three Iowa State faculty members campaigned against it, saying it violated the separation of church and state. An award-winning finance professor, Stover has been on Iowa State’s faculty since 1979. He said suggestions that he designed the class to preach to students are unfounded.

“My intention was to have the students study academic management literature on the topics of the book and use that background to evaluate whether the author’s suggestions have any merit,” Stover wrote. “This form of inquiry is what business school faculty do all the time. Given the growth of interest in the role of spirituality in business management, our students may well be exposed to this in their career. I feel it is incumbent on us to prepare them for such exposure.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeff Sovern of St. John’s University (New York) explains efforts to make sure home buyers understand the terms of their loan. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Senior University of California administrators are expressing interest in a radical proposal to change tuition policy, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The idea is to replace tuition with a commitment by students to pay 5 percent of their income back to the university for 20 years after graduation. The plan came from Fix UC, a group of students at the Riverside campus. They have presented administrators with data showing that the plan could provide sufficient revenue to the university without creating burdens on current students, and while keeping repayment requirements affordable. Mark Yudof, the university system president, called the plan "constructive," and said he has asked system officials to analyze it.


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