Massachusetts is leading a nine-state effort to measure what students learn in college, writes Marcella Bombardieri in the Boston Globe.
The plan is to compare students’ work, including term papers and lab reports, rather than using a standardized test.
“There is tremendous interest in this nationally, because everybody in higher education knows, if this doesn’t work, the next answer is a standardized test probably imposed by the federal government or by states,” Commissioner Richard M. Freeland said at a state Board of Higher Education meeting . . .
The Association of American Colleges and Universities is overseeing the project, which recently received $1 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Some professors are worried that campuses or instructors may be punished for poor results when they are doing their best to help students who arrived on campus underprepared, Paul F. Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and a higher education board member, told the Globe. “I think there’s just a concern that they’re going to be held accountable for things beyond their control,” he said.
Before reaching out to other states, Massachusetts conducted a pilot project last spring. Seven campuses — including several community colleges, Framingham and Salem state universities, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell — gathered about 350 samples of assignments students who were nearing graduation had completed for classes.
Then a group of 22 professors spent three days over spring break at Framingham State evaluating the work for what it showed about each student’s abilities in written communication, quantitative literacy, or critical thinking, said Bonnie Orcutt, director of learning outcomes assessment for the Department of Higher Education.
Massachusetts is working with Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah to expand the experiment.