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Accountability in Higher Education Data Driven Schools A Presentation to the Educational Approval Board State of Wisconsin Presentation Outline Institutional Effectiveness Importance in Higher Education ACCSCT’s Journey Newer thinking – a paradigm shift The ACCSCT outcomes model

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Accountability in Higher Education Data Driven Schools

A Presentation

to the

Educational Approval Board

State of Wisconsin


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Presentation Outline

  • Institutional Effectiveness

    • Importance in Higher Education

    • ACCSCT’s Journey

    • Newer thinking – a paradigm shift

    • The ACCSCT outcomes model

    • The Habits of Accountable (data-driven) schools

    • The Pay-off

    • Thoughts about the future


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Education In the U.S.

  • U.S. ranks 16th in the World behind most of Europe in its high school graduation rate at 73%

  • Of all first-time college students who entered a community college in 1995, only 36% earned a degree within six years.

  • Completion rates for low-income students and minorities are even lower.


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Education in the U.S.

  • Almost 20% of traditional-aged community college students never complete even 10 credits

  • Only 6% of the lowest income college entrants obtain a degree at all.


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Statistics suggest a need for thinking differently about accountability.

Older view:

An effective institution is one that provides resources (faculty, library, services) so learning can occur

Students have responsibility for learning

Accreditation/ assessment ensures that appropriate resources are provided by institutions


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No Child Left Behind accountability.

  • Shifts the emphasis from teaching to learning

  • Holds institutions accountable for student learning

  • Uses standard (although perhaps imperfect) methodologies to test learning

  • Will influence HEA reauthorization and Department of Education proposals


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Accountability in Post-secondary Education accountability.

  • Discussions regarding institutional effectiveness began before “No Child Left Behind.”

  • 1998 Amendments to the Higher Education Act signaled Congress’ expectation that outcomes measures would be used to determine institutional effectiveness


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Early regulation/discussion accountability.

  • Focused on “vocational education”

  • Thought of performance outcomes as one way to measure the effectiveness of institutions in light of mission

  • Demanded more from accrediting commissions that accredited colleges and schools with clear career objectives (Default rate concerns)


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Accrediting Agency Response accountability.

  • All institutional accrediting commissions adopted standards related to measurements of institutional effectiveness

  • Some institutional accrediting commissions adopted quantitative standards, setting rates of completion, placement, licensure and other outcomes.


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Accrediting Commission Response accountability.

Accrediting commissions adopted different methodologies for assessing institutional effectiveness

Setting specific rates

By program or by institution (aggregate)

Changing rates based on averages

By program or by institution (aggregate)


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Accrediting Commission Response accountability.

  • Some commissions explored alternative methodologies for assessing quality

    • HLC of North Central Association: AQUIP

    • SACS adopts similar model and standards for all institutions


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Newer thinking about accountability after 10 years: accountability.

  • Workforce Preparation is an important goal of education

  • Student learning is a shared responsibility

  • Successful student achievement is itself an important outcome in addition to being a measure of institutional effectiveness (feedback loop)

  • Higher Education must be accountable to the public for student learning

    • Reflected in H.R. 609 Cost, Accountability and Transparency Provisions as public policy


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Commission on the Future of Higher Education Goals accountability.

  • World –class higher-education system that creates new knowledge, contributes to economic prosperity and global competitiveness and empowers citizens

  • Accessible to all Americans

  • Affordable high quality instruction

  • Adaptable workplace skills

  • Innovative: adaptable to changing technology and demographics


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ACCSCT’s Journey accountability.


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ACCSCT accountability.

  • Promulgated specific outcomes standards for completion, placement and licensure in July, 1998

  • Standards Require “Acceptable” Student Achievement

    • Completion

    • Placement

    • State licensing examination pass rates

  • Establish bright line indicators

  • Allow for extenuating circumstances

    • External factors which have a bearing on student achievement


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ACCSCT Completion and Placement Chart accountability.

  • Cohort Reporting

    • Defined Timeframe and Parameters

  • Individual Tracking

    • Defined Individual Classifications

  • Starting Point

  • Allowance for Mitigating Factors


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Outcomes Data Collection accountability.

  • ACCSCT Outcomes Trends: 1997-2001

  • Annual Reporting Process

  • Verification Requirements

  • Completion & Placement v. Retention

  • Calculating Student Achievement Standards




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Completion and Placement Charts required annually – for each program

Data entry Process & Screening:

Review of each submission for accuracy

Additional data requested as required

Supporting Documentation Required

Verifiable records of all classifications

Employment, Further Education

Schools must keep supporting documentation on file

Annual Reporting Process


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Verification Required each program

  • Completion and placement rates are verified as part of the on-site evaluation process

  • Random samples of completion and placement data are selected for verification

  • All submissions of Outcomes reports require supporting documents


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Completion and Placement v. Retention each program

  • Completion and Placement track separate cohorts of students through graduation

  • Retention measures the extent to which students remain enrolled in and/or graduate from an institution (snap shot)

  • Both measures can be used to evaluate successful student achievement (longer programs)


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Programs are organized according to a single program commonality - program length

The completion rates for groupings of programs with common lengths are averaged & one standard deviation is calculated.

Raw data & calculations are verified by a third party.

Determining the Student Achievement Standard for Completion


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Calculating the Student Achievement Standard commonality - program length

Completion rates decline as programs lengthen.

Ascending Program Length InMonths

Groupings of program length are evident.


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Determining the Student Achievement Standard for Placement commonality - program length

  • Different program characteristics do not yield any commonality relative to placement.

  • Data collected over five years did not show that geography, enrollment numbers, program length, or occupational area consistently had any effect on placement.

  • Some relevancy to economic conditions, extenuating circumstances to be proven by individual institution.


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Data and calculations are reviewed by Dr. Morgan Lewis, Statistician, Ohio State University


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Accreditation and Quality Assessment Model Statistician, Ohio State University


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Habits of Accountable Institutions Statistician, Ohio State University

  • Commitment to strong Leadership

    • Schools with experienced leaders tend to have better student outcomes (McComis, 2005). But, leadership in our industry requires commitment on the part of owners/investors.

    • School that establish operations based on best practice, not just because a rule or standard requires it, tend to be more successful. In this way, compliance becomes a natural extension of school operations. For example, the use of PACs because it is a best practice, not because an ACCSCT standard requires it.


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Habits of Accountable Institutions: those that care about completion

  • Act at all times in the best interest of students

  • Take attendance

  • React quickly to lack of attendance/progress

  • Take responsibility for student learning and achievement

  • Listen mightily to student feedback

  • Respond enthusiastically to student needs and concerns

  • Respond immediately to a change in completion trends


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Habits of Accountable Schools: those that care about placement

  • Involve employers in the development of programs

  • Work feverishly at the school’s reputation in the community including the workforce community

  • Pursue programmatic accreditations

  • Pursue articulation and consortia agreements with other institutions

  • Make a strong commitment to continuous improvement

  • Constantly evaluate student achievement data and seek to improve program content and delivery.



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What have we learned? placement

  • Verification is critical to any accountability model

  • Differences in accountability models make comparable data elusive

  • Diversity in higher education makes one common model unlikely


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What is yet to learn? placement

  • What is the goal of higher education?

    • Learning?

    • Workforce preparation?

    • Global conscience?

    • Some combination?

  • If we know the goal, how will we know when we have attained it? What’s good enough performance? Does striving to be average improve higher education?


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How has our thinking changed? placement

  • Continuous monitoring of program viability a useful tool for schools and accrediting commissions

  • Integrating outcomes assessment as part of institutional improvement planning and program advisory committee review is a good practice

  • Data collection useful for trend analysis and longitudinal studies


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The Future . . . placement

  • Need for further refinement and continuing study

  • Continued congressional and Department of Education interest in accountability

    • Increased public disclosure of information on student achievement

    • Need to ensure accurate disclosure of information by institutions and accrediting commissions

    • Greater transparency of the accreditation process

    • Greater emphasis on methodology and verification (perhaps a common approach for similar institutions)


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The Future . . . placement

Continuing questions regarding how to judge the relative quality of education programs (cost/consumer protection issue)

Continuing debate on the limits of federal involvement in determining measures of accountability

Concern over ability of U.S. higher education institutions to compete globally where other countries are investing significantly in research and disclosure of outcomes information

Continuing questions about the cost of higher education and the value added.


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Accountability In Higher Education placement

A Presentation for the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board

Elise Scanlon

Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology

2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302

Arlington, VA 22201

703-247-4212

[email protected]


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