Sunday, May 05, 2013
So wise and worldly readers, I turn to you. How do you know when a college is doing a good job?
As usual, your speculations lead to some insight. I think the emphasis should be on "what they are supposed to be doing" for each important population on campus. It does have to be robust and measurable. That sort of thing is what the discussion leading to Outcomes is supposed to focus on, as I understand the ideal case.
For undergrads (and I don't give a research U a free pass here) it should be whether they are ready for the next class at the college, the classes at a transfer institution for a CC or U, and their job or graduate program performance after the AS, BA, or BS. A research U would have additional measures for graduate students after they finish. Asking the students, as noted in the comment above, is also a good idea.
Falsification is important to consider.
- What are your institution's research outcomes in the past 10 years?
- What are your institution's teaching outcomes in the past 10 years?
- What is your institution's workplace integration initiatives?
Any given institution will likely do well on only 1 or 2 of those 3 questions, so that allows for a teaching-heavy community college to be compared to a co-op heavy training school. It would by-pass "teaching to the test" and instead, colleges could use survey and graduation numbers as they see fit. Granted, some standardization would need to occur as to what counts as graduation, but you could invent that definition as you go.
Statistical analysis can give you that answer.
It seems to me that students who have more than one option of where to attend the first two years of college will attend colleges whose reputations are excellent and affordable for their budgets. Therefore, a college is doing a good job if a base enrollment number of students continues at or above the same level each semester regardless of the local economy.
No tests needed, just the opinions of the community demonstrated by continued or increased enrollment.
I think sometimes legislators get sold on "making sure our tax dollars are getting a good return" and this attitude drives testing, which may or may not give the answer.
SES is statistically correlated with achievement on standardized tests, according to all research I have seen, so they are not a good way. Low SES= lower test scores; high SES = higher test scores.
Go with the numbers of consumers (students). Companies can see how many consumers use their goods as an indicator that they are doing a good job. That is real world. Maybe colleges can use the same measure.
In another sense, once a school starts to publicly discuss measuring success it may signal that the school is in trouble, to some extent.
Think of this way: suppose both Stanford and Backwoods CC implement the same measurement program to evaluate their programs. Suppose both do badly according to these measurements. Backwoods CC may face serious consequences like cuts to funding or lessened resources, while Stanford probably won't (you may also substitute a public institution like U of T at Austin if you'd rather compare public to public).
You have a group of people who is opposed to math, science, empowerment, and prosperity. If they hate a given college, it is, by definition, doing well. Consider it reality-based crowdsourcing.
GradStudent @6:07AM appears to accept the idea that a large research university with 8,000 freshmen is not a "teaching heavy" institution.