Center for American Progress

Enhance Accountability by Measuring Learning and Success in Schools and Colleges

Enhance Accountability by Measuring Learning and Success in Schools and Colleges

With greater federal investment in colleges and universities to promote readiness must come accountability for results.

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Currently, there is little accountability for student outcomes—let alone student learning—within federal higher education policy. The good news is that colleges and universities are responding to calls for accountability with efforts to assess and improve student learning. And there is growing consensus about the skills and habits of mind students should learn in college, and a range of assessments for measuring these, including the National Study of Student Learning and the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

What is crucial is that the federal government plays an active role in further catalyzing these efforts. On assessment, the federal government can begin by requiring that all higher-education institutions implement learning assessment mechanisms and report student progress. This should be done for all students as well as disaggregated for traditionally disadvantaged groups. Moreover, the federal government should focus on evaluating performance through a value-added framework that assesses gains in student knowledge over time. Assessment mechanisms lacking a value-added approach may instead encourage institutions to deny access to those students who are less likely to perform well.

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