Assessments can only make university better

In sports, teams get better by practicing and competing. Teams play each other to see how they stack up.

Academics are no different. Much like classes, the only way for departments to improve is to teach students and then test them.

This spring, Western plans to start judging how it’s programs stack up against others by testing graduating seniors.

Some Western graduates may take multiple choice tests while others may submit portfolios of their work.

Either way, the new tests will also help Western prepare for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools review in 2005, said Rhetta Poe, co-chairman of Western’s SACS review project committee.

Our only question is, why haven’t we been doing this before?

We think assessing departments is a great idea. How do we know what to fix if we don’t know what’s broken?

We just want to make sure that the tests stay focused on assessing departments – not students.

If students are passed through 36 hours of courses in one subject and miss key concepts, there’s a problem. If an entire class of students miss the concept, there’s a bigger problem.

Here are a few suggestions for how the new assessments should work:

Students, to a certain degree, should be held accountable for their scores. We don’t want the assessments to keep students from graduating if they fail, but their scores should count for something. We recommend putting the students’ final score on their transcripts, that way future employers can see how they performed on the end of college assessment.

Faculty should also be accountable. When students take the assessment, we recommend that all of the classes and instructors the student has had be attached to each assessment. This way, if core concepts are missed by a majority of students, administrators can see where the problems lie and get them fixed.

Assessing Western’s programs is the only way the university can get better. If done correctly, and taken seriously, this process can have a huge impact.

This editorial is the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of editors.