Cal State uses controversial student test to rank its own effectiveness
More than 200 colleges across the country, including all California State University campuses, have been using a controversial technique to judge the effectiveness of college instruction on student performance.
For the past three years, CSU's 23 campuses have participated in a little-publicized project using the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which employs a "value-added" approach to measuring students' abilities on a range of critical thinking and writing skills on two exams.
The use of "value-added" methodology has been thrust in to the public spotlight by the recent controversial series of reports from the Los Angeles Times. The goal was to measure the effectiveness of elementary school teachers in boosting, or depressing, student test scores in Los Angeles.
The Times' approach and the one used by the CLA are very different. One major difference is that the Times attempted to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers, while the CLA looks at the effectiveness of an entire institution.
But the growing use of "value-added" approaches at both the K-12 and higher education levels evoked a range of criticisms, some of them extremely vehement, highlighting multiple methodological and other issues that have yet to be fully resolved.
The faculty on at least one CSU campus – CSU Chico – has twice rejected the use of the CLA, even though the campus received excellent ratings on the test. In a resolution last year, the Academic Senate declared the test to be "an invalid means of determining the quality of a university education, and is therefore of no use in improving the quality of education."
...The argument for measuring teacher effectiveness is partially based on the view that tax dollars are paying teachers' salaries, so taxpayers have a right to know what they are getting in return. The same argument could apply to college professors at public universities.