Thursday, November 05, 2009

Measuring Student Learning Outcomes to Increase Value-Based Competition

by Daniel L. Bennett

A new report, Interpretation of Findings of the Test Validity Study, was released today that presents evidence that the 3 major tests (CLA, CAAP and MAPP) used by colleges to measure student learning outcomes are comparable.
The results suggest that when the analysis is conducted at the school level, all the tests order schools similarly, regardless of which constructs they are designed to measure or which response format is used...
This finding is significant, as it should help the accountability movement in higher ed because it allays some of the concern that the various tests currently in use are not comparable. This would be a positive for college affordability if it helps lead to more and better information on student learning outcomes by institution being made publicly available in a digestible manner.

Doing so would allow the consumers of higher education (students, parents, taxpayers) to be able to efficiently decipher which schools are adding value to the student learning experience. This would go a long ways towards improving affordability, as it would invoke institutional competition based on value rather than reputation because consumers would have better information about the value of what they are buying. The latter (reputation competition) is widely believed to drive expenditures and thus, is positively associated with costs, while the former (value competition) is a market-based mechanism that would lead to more price-based competition. This would help alleviate some of the market distortion and direct us closer to an equilibrium price.

Of course, all of this is probably wishful thinking, but that does not obscure the importance of the findings of the report.

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