Most states have some kind of statewide assessment requirement in place to improve performance and/or give state officials a sense of what their investment in higher education has yielded. But the information they have on statewide collegiate learning is incomplete. Even those states that employ common measures for public colleges and universities know virtually nothing about the learning results of their private institutions. And when every public campus within a state assesses its students' learning differently, the state has no way to interpret the resulting information, because there are no external benchmarks against which to measure a given program's or institution's performance. Nor does the state know how the learning of its college-educated residents or current college attendees compares to the learning of those in other states—hence what its competitive position is with regard to its educational capital.

     Comparable assessment allows a state to:

chart its progress in developing its educational capital,
compare its performance to those of like states, and
identify good practices.

Given sample sizes that are large and sufficiently representative, institutions too can see how well they perform relative to their peers on key assessment measures. These external benchmarks can serve to anchor their more extensive campus-based assessment methods, which continue to be essential to improvement.


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