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National CrossTalk Fall 1999
News Editorial Other Voices Interview
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After years of financial struggles, Barat College, a small Catholic liberal arts school in the north Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, is merging with larger, wealthier DePaul University.(continue)

Politicizing University Governance
Conservatives appointed by Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani now control governing boards of New York’s public universities

Trying to Measure Student Learning
Missouri gathers a lot of data, but what does it all mean?

News From the Center

Barat College’s “Strategic Alliance”
Financially troubled small school merges with DePaul University

California Financial Aid Program Disappoints
Bright promise of the Calgrant expansion effort has not been realized

Other Voices
Making the Grade
The SAT versus the GPA

Professorial Prose
Why do they write like that?
  New York Governor George Pataki's conservative appointees now control the SUNY Board of Trustees. Pataki is shown on election night, 1998, with his wife Libby.
By Jon Marcus

If the meeting in the Albany, New York conference room had been a university lecture, the professor would have stopped to reprimand the class for not paying attention. Half the people in the audience were frantically reading, instead of listening to the discussion.

But these weren't students who hadn't done their homework. They were presidents from campuses of the State University of New York. And they had just been handed a proposal for a core curriculum requiring 30 credit hours of classes in ten subjects, including math, foreign language, communications, natural science, social science and American, western and other world civilizations. Even some of the members of the SUNY Board of Trustees, which was voting on the plan that day, had seen it for the first time less than a week before.

The core curriculum was being pushed by conservative advocacy groups and by think tanks including the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the proprivatization Manhattan Institute, and the Empire Foundation for Policy Research, an arm of the anti-tax group CHANGE-NY (Citizens Helping Achieve New Growth and Employment in New York), which is closely tied to Republican Governor George Pataki. One of the proposal's principal architects was a founding member of CHANGE-NY named Candace de Russy, who Pataki had appointed to the board of trustees. There had been little or no input from the faculty.

It was a pivotal moment in the contentious process through which the governor had gained control of the 16-member board of trustees. Within 13 months after Pataki took office in 1995, his largely conservative... (continue)

Faculty members at Missouri's Truman State University scrutinize student portfolios, part of the school's rigorous assessment program.  
By William Trombley
Senior Editor
Kirksville, Missouri

Students at Truman State University, in this small town in the northeastern corner of Missouri, are tested, interviewed, surveyed and assessed within an inch of their lives.

Truman is a "bastion of measurement," said a former campus administrator. "If it moves, they measure it."

Freshmen take a general education test during their first week on campus, then take the same test again as juniors, to measure their progress. Sophomores must successfully complete a "writing experience" which consists of writing an essay and then having it evaluated by a faculty member in a one-on-one session. Seniors are tested in their majors and also must present portfolios that are supposed to reflect their academic experiences at Truman. All of this is in addition to the tests they take, and grades they receive, routinely in college courses.

Students are surveyed or interviewed frequently while on campus and additional questionnaires pursue them after graduation, asking about jobs and other aspects of their lives as alumni. "I wonder if I'll have to fill out something when I die?" one student asked a recent campus visitor.

"This is an institution that believes in assessment," said Robert Stein, associate commissioner for academic affairs at the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education. "If you're serious about changing the campus culture, assessment has to penetrate throughout and it does at Truman." And not only at Truman.

Missouri is one of a handful of states with a comprehensive student assessment plan. Each of the state's 13 public four-year campuses, and most of its two-year colleges, test students in both general education and in academic majors or technical specialties. Some do so more grudgingly than others.

The Coordinating Board for Higher Education uses these results, along with other factors, to determine how much money should be allocated to each campus from two incentive funds, one called "Funding for Results," the other "Mission Enhancement."

Missouri does not insist that a particular general education test be used, as a few other states do. However, to be eligible for the incentive money, a campus must use a nationally normed test, so the... (continue)


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