Accountability and student learning in the USA

Carol L. Colbeck, Tom Robinson

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Over the past two decades, there have been a variety of efforts to shift the primary purpose of US higher education institutions to the production of learning rather than the delivery of instruction (Barr and Tagg, 1995). In 1983, A Nation at Risk (U.S. Department of Education, 1983) raised concerns about elementary, secondary and postsecondary educational outcomes. Other reports such as Access to Quality Undergraduate Education (Southern Regional Education Board, 1985), Integrity in the College Curriculum (Association of American Colleges, 1985), and To Reclaim a Legacy (Bennett, 1984) called for assessment of student learning (Ewell, 2002; Huba & Freed, 2000). Recently, a commission convened by US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings released A Test of Leadership: Charting the future of U.S. higher education (2006). The Spellings Commission noted "...a remarkable absence of accountability mechanisms to ensure that colleges succeed in educating students" (US Department of Education, p. xii).

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