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Here’s an ugly word: Assessment. Now before you click away, Assessment often gets caught in a tug of war between accountability and improvement. Those who seek improvement see assessment as the Faculty’s domain. Quizzes, tests, essays, and classroom discussion and ultimately clinging to the end product a grade. While the other side claims grade point averages aren’t reliable, as a result of grade inflation. Accountability requires some external measure of learning, like a standardized test. The tensions have produced a stalemate, and educational quality has remained opaque.

“The evidence of excellent or inadequate student engagement is student work,” he wrote this year in a report for the foundation. Making students’ work more widely available for inspection would provide a clear indication of what they’re learning.

“What we want,” Mr. Shireman said in an interview, “is faculty members to be creative and push students to their potential.”

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