The Initiative to End Grade Inflation is concerned with the following issues:
1. Accountability in Higher Education: Is higher education concerned about the issue of accountability? Awareness is certainly not a problem. The Education Commission of the States reports that "state level interest in accountability is strong and growing." The National Academy of Science posted (October, 2004) on their web site that "Teaching will be more public than it ever has been before. It will be open to inspection, discussion, and increasing accountability." Furthermore, "The nature and quality of assessment will change. Faculty will teach within a culture of evidence that will place great importance on demonstrating learning outcomes."
The need for accountability in higher education has been explicitly stated by The American Association of Higher Education, The Association of American Colleges and Universities, The American Federation of Teachers, The U.S. Department of Education and North Central Accreditation Agency. Statements by each can be seen in The State of Missouri on this web site.
We feel that an important step toward meeting accountability demands is to make institutional data including both the GPA and standardized test scores available to the public at large. In a recent treatise entitled: Greater Expectations (October, 2004), the Association of American Colleges and Universities states that "Explicit learning goals and transparent assessment results could go a long way toward satisfying the demands for accountability and improved learning that are arising in many states." We believe that if the academic transcript is to regain the respect of society, subjective evaluation of academic performance, now in the form of letter grades, should be augmented by external, objective assessment. Currently letter grades provide the only form of assessment of learning on the transcript. However, letter grades are not a legitimate form of academic assessment according to The Higher Learning Commission of North Central.
2. Academic Assessment: The No Child Left Behind Act resulted in a nationwide standardized testing program for math and English skills at grade levels 4 and 8. Results identify deficiencies but also permit comparisons between schools within a district, between school districts at the state level, etc. When testing programs are consistent between states, national comparisons are possible and can be extended to the international level. The ACT and SAT remain the primary standardized tests for use at the high school level. Not all students participate; institutions of higher education that practice open admission do not require ACT or SAT scores. Inconsistencies may exist within a single institution. Traditional day programs typically require test scores while others such as internet based programs may use open admission.
Academic assessment in higher education has no well-defined, consistent policy. Assessment may include a mix of standardized tests and subjective evaluations including, but not limited to portfolios, senior-culminating experiences, senior-exit interviews and in-house generated exams. A variety of standardized tests exists including CBASE and the Academic Profile Test for general studies at the freshman and sophomore level as well as the Major Field Test for the academic major in many subject areas. The Graduate Record Exam, in use for many years, covers both general and advanced studies. Education departments may choose to use Student Teaching as a senior-culminating experience. Institutions sometimes include results of Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET scores) in their comprehensive-assessment package which they present to accreditation teams during re-accreditation visits.
Given this situation, The Initiative to End Grade Inflation attempted to determine which standardized tests are currently in use by Missouri's community and junior colleges to assess the extent of learning for the first two years of academic-course work. These first two years focus on the General Education component, sometimes termed the Core Curriculum, which consists of a group of courses intended to improve analytical and communication skills as well as to increase cultural knowledge. Community and junior colleges in the state of Missouri were chosen for this study because Missouri state policy requires baccalaureate-degree-granting public institutions to accept the junior colleges' associate degree in lieu of the general education component of the four year degree program. State policy requires Missouri's institutions to do assessment but does not specify what assessment actually consists of. Institutions are only required to post how they assess learning outcomes. Because state policy ensures ready transfer of junior college credits in general education throughout Missouri's universities, the need for objective assessment at the junior college level is obvious. Whether accountability for releasing the results of this assessment, i.e. making them transparent to the public, lies with the individual institutions, the oversight agencies, or state government is not specified. Accountability, like academic assessment, remains a vague issue in higher education in the state of Missouri.