Community Colleges: Measuring Something

Performance reviews are the latest fad in higher education thinking. State boards, pundits, and administrators now demand that colleges measure time spent teaching, research papers published, students graduated, and even learning.

It turns out community colleges, despite being generally kind of low performing, already measure learning outcomes pretty enthusiastically.

According to a paper recently published by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment:

Community colleges use a variety of approaches to assess student learning outcomes. …Nearly all respondents said their institutions used performance and other authentic task assessments and grading rubrics. These findings do not permit us to determine, however, whether respondents shared a common understanding of authentic tasks4 and rubrics or whether they used generally available tasks and rubrics, developed their own, or used them in combination.

Community colleges mostly use such measures in pretty limited ways, however. Colleges mostly use assessments to look at the success of individual classes and programs, not the whole institution.

Some 80 percent of schools surveyed reported using performance assessments like simulations, portfolios, projects, to measure outcomes. Some 83 percent of schools used specific tests to measure outcomes, but these were pretty much limited to programs (a special test for nursing students or accountants), not given across the institution. Only 8 percent of schools said they measured learning across the whole community college.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer