Annually billions of public tax dollars are invested in higher
education based upon the belief that education is a key factor in the
health and economics of any country, state, or individual. However
public demands for accountability have resulted in major concerns
about the quality of American higher education. In 1983 a U.S.
Department of Education report called A Nation at Risk
"Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged
preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological
innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.
This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and
dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that under girds
American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the
American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our
schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed
to the United States and the well-being of its people, the
educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by
a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a
Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has
begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational
If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to
impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists
today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands,
we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered
the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik
challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems
which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been
committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament."
(National Commission on Excellence
in Education, 1983, p. 5)
Subsequent to this report and further fueled by rising costs in higher
education, external measures to ensure quality education were adopted
and in some states legislated. These external pressures for
accountability came in several forms: changes in accreditation
standards, new tougher expectations by grant funding agencies, and the
genesis of performance-based funding by state legislative bodies.
* Personal Note: No one likes to prove that what they are doing is
significant and effective, why can't people just see that?
Unfortunately, we are accountable for the money invested in education.
We all want accountability when it comes to our own or family member's
education. Teachers often operate on a "gut feeling" about what is effective in classrooms; assessment
provides an opportunity to do that in a reasoned way. Getting the data
takes some work, but for me, it has provided valuable insights, a few
confirmation concerning what I do with students. (More on this in