NCTE Literacy Education Advocacy Day
February 27, 2014
Note: This is the third of three recommendations for policymakers
(see also the first and second).
To improve conditions for student literacy learning in the United States, NCTE recommends that policymakers place the professional expertise of teachers and the complex elements of educational institutions at the center of decision making and assessment of educational outcomes. NCTE's three recommendations focus on professional learning, professional expertise, and uses of evidence in decision making about the effectiveness of colleges and universities.
3. Assessing the effectiveness of institutions of higher education must involve multiple factors and varied forms.
College scorecards and rating systems are currently being proposed to inform potential college students and to ascertain return on investment in institutions. Ratings that focus primarily on graduation rates and graduate earnings, however useful those are in economic terms, neglect crucial indicators that signal all aspects of higher education related to institutional benefit and student success.
Although colleges and universities impact the range and depth of research in our country, the health of community partnerships, and innovation on the national and global scene, our concern is on using evidence that signals the value to students. For example, research shows that the value of liberal arts education often surfaces in the workplace years after initial employment: using salary figures of recent graduates as a chief measure of an institution’s effectiveness falsifies the value of a student’s education and signals that some fields are more important than others. The Association of American Colleges & Universities accentuates challenging studies, student engagement in high-impact educational practices, and a constant focus on essential learning outcomes as a Vision for Learning. Tracing evidence of these factors would signal the effectiveness of an institution in influencing student learning.
Evidence of the more important habits of mind associated with a college education, for example, engagement, responsibility, curiosity, persistence, and metacognition, can be abundant, partly because of technology. Literacy is fundamental in these habits of mind, so assessment of them can be done through evidence of literacy practices. For just one example, electronic portfolio learning enables description and assessment of literacy activities in all disciplines studied by students. Periodic assessment of individual student portfolios aids students in understanding their progress; periodic sampling of portfolios across an institution enables assessment of programs.
As policymakers work to document the quality of higher education, they should include the multiple goals of a college education and the varied kinds of evidence available to assess the ways that goals are being met.
Association of American Colleges and Universities. An Introduction to LEAP
Connected Learning Coalition. Assessment: A Fundamental Component of Learning.
National Center for Literacy Education. Remodeling Literacy Learning Together: Path to Standards Implementation.
National Council of Teachers of English. Formative Assessment That Truly Improves Instruction.