Published on 2012/05/11

Defining Accountability In Higher Education

In a guest article on the Washington Post’s College Inc. blog, Robert J. Sternberg, Regents Professor of Psychology and Education at Oklahoma State University warned of the dangers in seeking an all-encompassing Holy Grail assessment metric.

Pointing to the resounding failure that is the No Child Left Behind act, Sternberg warns that colleges and universities are going down the same route in their own search for greater accountability, trying to name a single metric that will define their success and failure.

“Treating any one higher education measure in the way some colleges mistakenly treat the ACT or SAT — as an all-encompassing measure of students’ educational or cognitive skills — would be a disastrous mistake,” he writes. “It would narrow college learning just when global challenges require a broader portfolio of learning than ever before.”

He points out that trying to measure the success of an institution by standardized testing reduces the quality of education students receive as educators “teach to the test” in order to secure their institution funding.

Moving to a single metric like retention, for example, could lead to a reduction in educational quality as institutions push students toward graduation while ignoring academic performance failures. The world of performance metrics is more complex than any one measurement.

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