MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XX No. 5
May / June 2008
Financing Undergraduate Education
MIT Faculty Survey: It's About Time
Berwick, Lee, and Orlin Elected to
FNL Editorial Board
Reconsidering the Value of Service to MIT
Confidentiality in Recruitment, Promotion, and Tenure Reviews
Provost Announces Faculty Renewal Program
Endowment Spending Policy at MIT
A New Approach to MIT's Financial Planning
A Primer on Indirect Costs
Changes in Engineering Education
Anthropologists Express Concern Over Government Plan to Support Military-Related Research in Universities
Reflections on Nominations and Elections for Faculty Officers and Commmittees at MIT
Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity: Research Team and Effort Launched
The Man I Killed; Lise
Creating a Culture of Communication: Assessing the Implementation of the Undergraduate Communication Requirement
The Vision Thing
Lerman Now Dean for Graduate Education
The Spellings Commission Backs Off
Who Should Be Allowed to Speak
at Faculty Meetings?
from the 2008 Faculty Survey: Reasonableness of Workload
from the 2008 Faculty Survey:
Satisfaction with . . .
from the 2008 Faculty Survey:
Sources of Stress
Printable Version


The Spellings Commission Backs Off

To the Faculty Newsletter:

I read with interest Professor Jonathan King’s article on the Spellings Commission and the issue of standardized testing. I’ve been following the Spellings Commission – and the fallout – closely as one of the main functions of the Teaching and Learning Laboratory is to help faculty assess the effectiveness of their pedagogical and curricular innovations (without the use of standardized tests, however). My sense is that Secretary Spellings has backed off from the concept of standardized tests. For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education (2/1/08) quoted her in a speech to the National Press Club in December as saying, “All colleges should be allowed to describe their own unique missions" and be judged against that. She went on to say, "That is totally within the jurisdiction of each institution.”

Dean Daniel Hastings, along with staff members in the Dean for Undergraduate Education’s office and the Office of Institutional Research, has been involved in the assessment issue both as it affects MIT and nationally. For example, Dean Hastings was MIT’s representative to a task force of the National Association of Land Grant Universities and Colleges (NASLGUC), which created the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA). A university that agrees to abide by the VSA, among other things, is required to administer one of three standardized tests. We advised Dean Hastings not to agree to the VSA because of the requirement to use a standardized test. In addition, Dean Hastings is the chair of a Consortium on Financing in Higher Education (COFHE) working group that is writing a white paper on assessment.

With that said, we have agreed to participate in an experiment to administer the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) to a small number of our students as part of a FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education) research project to see what data the CLA generates. We have also consented to pilot two new instruments being developed by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) that are similar to the National Survey of Student Engagement, but specifically for engineering students. (The NAE would also like us to pilot a faculty version.) However, we will not agree to any content-based standardized tests for the reasons Professor King mentions in his article.

I hope this provides the readers of the Faculty Newsletter with additional information on the issue of standardized testing and assessment.

Lori Breslow

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