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AAC&U Board of Directors Issues Statement on Final Report from U.S. Commission on the Future of Higher Education
Statement Praises Focus on Expanded Access, but Expresses Regret at Missed Opportunities and Undue Faith in Testing as a Catalyst for Change
Washington, DC – September 26, 2006—The Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) issued a statement today on the final report of the U.S. Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The report, “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education,” is the culmination of a year of investigation by a nineteen-member Commission that “was charged with examining vital issues central to a quality higher education, such as accessibility, affordability, accountability and quality.”
In its statement issued today, the AAC&U Board of Directors heartily endorsed the report’s call for “an unprecedented effort to expand higher education access and success,” but also expressed regret over the report’s notable omissions.
“While the Commission sounds a note of urgency, it has missed an important opportunity today to exercise leadership and offer a robust vision of educational quality for our time,” said AAC&U Board of Directors Chair and President of San Francisco State University, Robert Corrigan.
The AAC&U Board Statement notes that “changes in the world around us have significantly raised the bar on the scope and level of learning all students need from a college education. By saying virtually nothing about the learning outcomes that are most important in today’s world, the Commission leaves the door wide open for access without excellence.”
The Statement goes on to note that, “the complete failure even to mention the importance of history, culture, the humanities, the arts, or to highlight the growing service learning movement shows a dramatically downsized conception of college learning.”
Moreover, the AAC&U Board notes that the Commission’s recommendations regarding specific standardized tests present a far too limited approach to accountability and assessment—and one that is unlikely to advance needed reforms to substantially raise levels of student achievement.
“We know that we must raise student achievement levels in college,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “The most important question is: how do we help them do better? The Commission’s report suggests that standardized testing is the only answer to this question. But collecting more evidence on underachievement is very different from actually tackling the problem and improving educational outcomes for all students.”
Assessment does have a role in improving higher education. But, AAC&U has called for curriculum-embedded “milestone” and “capstone” assessments that focus both student and faculty attention on expected learning outcomes and students’ cumulative progress.
The AAC&U Statement also notes, however, that the Commission missed an opportunity to call for broad dissemination and adoption of a generation of educational innovations that, new research shows, are beneficial for many students, and especially useful for students from less advantaged backgrounds.
The AAC&U Board of Directors pledges in its statement to “continue to exercise leadership…and to do everything [they] can to help all students—especially those underserved—achieve the kinds of learning they need for a new global century.” As part of this leadership, AAC&U announced in the statement that it will be releasing a ground-breaking national report from its initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), in January 2007 that will make specific recommendations about the learning students need and ways to raise levels of student achievement from school to college.
For the full text of the AAC&U Board of Directors Statement and copies of previous statements, see www.aacu.org/about/statements
For information about LEAP, see www.aacu.org/advocacy/leap
AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises nearly 1,300 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.
AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education and inclusive excellence at both the national and local levels, and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.