Letter Printed in the Chronicle of Higher Education

December 06, 2007

October 19, 2007

To the Editor:

Because of the great significance of learning-outcomes assessment in Washington and on campuses across the nation, I believe it's important to lay out clearly the position of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities ("A Year Later, Spellings Report Still Makes Ripples," The Chronicle, September 28).

We support the choice by any college or university to develop and use learning-outcome measures consistent with its mission. What we oppose is the prescription of learning outcomes by legislative or regulatory action, rather than by an institution's choice.

The private-higher-education sector is incredibly diverse, representing many different types of missions, student profiles, sizes, and academic offerings. As a result, private institutions rely on a wide array of measurement tools — including the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, portfolios, comprehensive exams, senior surveys, capstone papers, … and so on — many of them internally designed to best fit an institution's mission.

Mandating — by legislation or regulation — standardized learning-outcome tools ignores the reality of institutional mission; it simply would not capture the work of the nation's 1,600 private colleges and universities. Bureaucrats should not be allowed to strip away this fundamental component of institutional self-government. Student learning, academic quality, and educational performance would all be damaged by such unprecedented action.

David L. Warren
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Washington

MORE News from NAICU