Learning accountability -- or the lack thereof, depending on your perspective -- remains front and center in the post-Commission-on-the-Future-of-Higher-Education tension between the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, working through the Department of Education, currently appoints all members of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. NACIQI, in turn, advises the Secretary on accreditation and recommends which accrediting organizations should be “federally recognized.” NACIQI's leverage over CHEA and its member institutions and organizations, especially the regional accrediting agencies and their client institutions, is that only those institutions that are accredited by “federally recognized” accreditors are eligible for the approximately $100 billion in federal funds granted annually to higher education.
The excerpt below suggests that NACIQI may stop recognizing some of the regional accrediting organizationsand unless they and their client institutions come to grips with the Commission's call for direct evidence of student learning accomplishments, such evidence presumably involving test scores or stats that are comparable across peer groupings of institutions. My opinion is that such evidence is possible to generate, albeit in a process that is culturally incorrect in higher education. That opinion and practical (but culturally incorrect) how-to suggestions are detailed in a post on October 22, Decoupling Testing from Teaching: Heresy or a Culturally Inconvenient Imperative?
U.S. Review of Accreditors May Produce a Showdown: Bush administration is expected to push colleges for more accountability
Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 30, 2007
A dispute over the federal agency charged with reviewing college accreditors may come to a boil at a key review session next month, when the waning Bush administration will have one of its highest-profile chances to try to force colleges to do more to demonstrate how well they help students learn. The federal agency is scheduled to assess five of the six main regional accreditation bodies and decide if they deserve renewed recognition. Some of the accreditors say the session has the potential to play out as a politically explosive showdown between the Education Department and the accreditors and colleges that have been seeking to take control of decisions about how institutions' performances are measured. Chronicle subscribers can read more ...