The most recent development in SUNY-wide assessment is the participation of some SUNY campuses in a national project known as the Voluntary System of Accountability. The project is a joint undertaking of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULCG) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).
VSA has been covered by the _Chronicle of Higher Education and insidehighered.com. As the latter reports here, the project became public in the wake of news that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings' Commission on the Future of Higher Education was discussing the imposition of a nation-wide standardized testing regime designed to assure quality in higher education.
Campuses that participate in VSA will post information about themselves using a common template, called the "College Portrait." Each campus will post its College Portrait on its own website; the portraits will not be collected in a central location. However, a list of participating campuses is to be made available at the VSA website. (The list doesn't appear to be up yet, but the site does have additional information about the project.)
One section of the College Portrait template is for information related to the assessment of student learning, and the requirement for participating campuses to complete this section using standardized test scores is generating some understandable controversy.
VSA campuses must measure students' critical thinking and written communication skills using one of the following standardized instruments: CAAP (College Assessment of Academic Proficiency), CLA (College Learning Assessment), or MAPP (Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress).
Currently, there appears to be no plan on the part of SUNY system administration to require state campuses to participate in VSA. However, a number of SUNY campuses have independently signed on to the project. Geneseo has not joined them, and according to Provost Conway-Turner, there is no prospect of our doing so.
At the October, 2007 Plenary Session of the University Faculty Senate, there was concern that over time SUNY-wide participation could become mandatory or expected. The following resolution was therefore proposed and approved:
Resolution on the State University and the "Voluntary" System of
- Whereas the University Faculty Senate has indicated through a number of
different resolutions that it opposes the collection and public
distribution of standardized measures assessing student leaning outcomes
that would allow for invidious and inappropriate comparisons among SUNY
- Whereas each campus of the State University has an assessment process that
is the result of agreements between that campus and the System
Administration, the singular purpose of which is the improvement of
undergraduate education, and
- Whereas the Voluntary Assessment System recently fostered by AASCU and
other educational organizations inappropriately uses such data as
marketing tools rather than for the improvement of undergraduate
- Whereas eight State University campuses have "volunteered" to pilot the
Voluntary System of Accountability with little or no consultation with
local faculty governance bodies,
- Be It Resolved that the University Faculty Senate strongly opposes any
move to implement the Voluntary System of Accountability as a State
- Be It Further Resolved that the University Faculty Senate urges a
prohibition of additional campus involvement in the pilot process without
explicit and meaningful consultation with local governance bodies.
For information on the history of SUNY-wide assessment, see the page on Campus-Based Gen Ed Assessment for SUNY and SUNY-wide Assessment - Timeline and Documents.
IMHO, this is another move down the slippery slope toward loss of active, empowered citizenship and hence democracy. Seeing what is happening in public schools in the name of "accountability," this proposal makes me very afraid. Despite claims that "it won't happen at Geneseo," I hope we will adopt a resolution on this matter because it's hard to climb back up that slope once you start sliding down...
Leigh O'Brien, SOE