Phi Beta Cons

Schools Don’t Want to Know Whether Students Learn

Five years ago, Academically Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa took the educational world by storm. The book confirmed many of our worst suspicions: once admitted to college, undergraduates don’t actually learn much of use. Specifically, 45 percent of the undergraduates that Arum and Roksa tested demonstrated no significant improvement in a range of skills—including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing—during their first two years of college.

The book highlighted the importance of measuring student learning on campus. But many schools, including those in the UNC system, have resisted efforts to consistently test and disclose student learning outcomes. In today’s article for the Pope Center, Stephanie Keaveney examines the UNC system’s 10-year plan to measure student learning—which still hasn’t been fully implemented.

Keaveney finds:

What started as a promising step towards a coordinated system of assessment at all 16 UNC campuses now appears to be another lackluster attempt to appease all stakeholders, while avoiding concrete data that could spur serious and necessary reform at the campus level.

After years of pilot programs, the UNC system is no closer to consistently measuring student achievement than it was in 2007.

Keaveney concludes, “It’s not unreasonable to expect universities to provide data that shows students learn the things universities claim to teach.” Read her full analysis here.

Jenna A. RobinsonJenna Ashley Robinson is the president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Before becoming president, she was the center's director of outreach. She was previously the ...

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