Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chancellor Well's New Acronym: VSA

Chancellor Well's has been presenting his latest project around campus the past few weeks. It is the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA).

From what people have told me, it is first and foremost an attempt to ward off the intrusion of the federal government into university standard setting. Chancellor Wells has been deeply involved in the production of the project and wants us to be one of the pilot schools, posting our data within a few years.

In order to do this, the VSA will provide information about the universities involved on a website. There will be the NSSE data (National Study of Student Engagement), on which we have done quite badly. Most importantly, however, they want to have students take some sort of standardized test as an exit exam. They will then report that number on the site as well.

Choosing to highlight scores from some standardized test as an important measure of learning at our institution seems to be problematic. How in the world do you test what a student has learned in college? Does it strip it down to a set of "skills" that are similar to the ACTs? Are there subject tests based on content knowledge?

Chancellor Wells wants us to jump on board now. Are people who heard his pitch convinced? Will this really stave off federal intervention? Can this actually measure the quality of our institution?


Anonymous said...

You don't have to speculate. We already use NSSE to measure student engagement and the MAP test to assess student skills ( ). Most of the other information UWO will be reporting also exists somewhere if you are willing to look hard enough in places like the UW System's web page or their yearly Accountability Report for the Regents. This Voluntary System for all participating campuses will make all this data available to students, parents and other interested parties in an easy to access and consistent format. The reporting will only compare comparable universities and we will not be testing for content knowledge as the Bush administration's Education Department was pushing for. We can all speculate if this will keep the federal wolves away from the door or if it measures quality better than the USN&WR rankings.

Anonymous said...

I love the irony of this chancellor taking the "lead" in making information public. This is like Bush suddenly going to the UN and saying he will take the lead in the fight against global warming after blocking every effort to really get at the problem.

How many times last year were faculty members show really disturbing data (remember the DFW report?), only to have someone collect all the data at the end of the meeting and say the Chancellor did not want the data to be made public. Now he wants to fly the Freedom-of-information flag? That takes guts.

Anonymous said...

My fear is that we will end up with "accountability" that looks like NCLB. Our performance will be judged by MAT scores, or some other standardized test.

You know that if the scores become an issue, they are not going to give us resources to deal with them in a what that would really be beneficial. Instead, they'll demand we teach to the test!