Commission Says Better Accountability
A National Imperative for Higher Education
From Staff and Newswire Reports
A national commission of political, business and higher education leaders have called for a “fresh approach” to educational accountability, citing increasing global competition, low rates of college completion and a gap in college access and success for minority students as evidence of a struggling U.S. education system.
“For over 50 years, the United States could rightfully claim to have the finest system of higher education in the world in terms of access, graduates and research,” the National Commission on Accountability in Higher Education says in its report, “Accountability for Better Results: A National Imperative for Higher Education.”
“Today this basic assumption is under challenge.”
The commission, chaired by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, says a new system of accountability is needed to “put more emphasis on successful student learning and high quality research, decrease the role of superficial comparisons and rankings, increase productivity, and provide parents, students, concerned citizens and policy-makers the answers to reasonable questions regarding costs.”
The commission calls the current system of accountability “cumbersome, confusing and inefficient,” and says it “fails to answer key questions, provides excessive misleading data and overburdens institutions.”
The report notes that “too often accountability is a battleground between educators and policy-makers, educational leaders, faculty and students to set and meet challenging goals, respect the boundaries between different roles and work at common purposes.” It says, the “organizing principles for accountability must be pride, not fear; high aspirations, not minimum standards.”
“This report underscores a vital but neglected national need — improving America’s performance in higher education,” Riley says. “We have a deep-seated structural crisis in American education — a crisis that is across the board from high school to college — in terms of getting people through our system of education.
“While I am pleased that the NCAA is focusing on graduation rates for athletes,” Riley continues, “this story needs to move from the sports page to the front page and people need to realize we have a crisis on our hands. This crisis has real implications for our standing as a world leader in higher education. If European nations, India and China can graduate students in a timely manner, surely we are up to the challenge as well.”
“Unless we improve our national performance in higher education, we risk the future of our nation and people,” Keating says. “When only 18 out of 100 entering ninth-graders complete a college education within six years of starting college, that adds up to a great loss of talent on an individual level and on a national level. Better accountability will open up new possibilities for our students and help to provide the skilled and knowledgeable workforce business needs for America to meet the demands of the world economy.”
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