College administrators are optimistic that they have met the recommendations of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, after a report two years ago identified that the college was not meeting standards of measuring institutional effectiveness, general education and assessment of student learning outcomes.
Following a visit from a Middle States review team in spring 2008, the college was given two years to meet three of the commission’s 14 standards of accreditation and show documented evidence in a monitoring report filed April 1.
Though the college’s accreditation was reaffirmed in 2008, it was required to submit a monitoring report in which the college should have explained the steps it took to meet Standards 7 and 14, which address a comprehensive and sustained process of measuring student learning outcomes and institutional effectiveness, and that the assessment results are being used to make improvements, and Standard 12, which addresses general education outcomes, according to the commission.
The commission will review this report in late June, according to Richard Pokrass, director of communications and public relations for the commission. If the report doesn’t meet the standards, he said, a follow-up visit or additional monitoring report may be required. If the standards are met, the college will begin working on its Periodic Review Report due in 2013.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the college’s accrediting body, requires all of its 522 accredited institutions to submit self-study reports every 10 years to examine if they’re meeting the commission’s 14 standards for accreditation. A Periodic Review is required every five years as a progress report, and monitoring reports are only required if the institution is “noncompliant” with the commission.
President Tom Rochon said he declined to release the monitoring report because it is the college’s policy not to publicize these reports, although the commission allows institutions to do so. He stated in an e-mail that the results of the monitoring report show great improvements.
“We have made a great deal of progress in the assessment of student learning, thanks to the hard work by the faculty and the deans in every school,” he said. “The provost is to be commended for leading an effort unprecedented in IC history.”
Pokrass said the fact that the college was given a two-year timetable to address the recommendations shows that the commission was not as concerned with the college as it is with other colleges that are given a much tighter time frame for submitting monitoring reports. He added that the college’s accreditation is not in jeopardy and that Standards 7 and 14 are the most frequently violated standards for colleges that are cited for noncompliance.
“Ithaca College isn’t unusual in that way,” he said.
Kathleen Rountree, provost of academic affairs, is the commission’s campus liaison. She was unavailable for comment. Following the team’s visit, Rochon charged the provost with hiring a director of student learning assessment, and the Deans’ Council and President’s Council were charged with discussing a process of more clearly defining general education goals.
Associate Provost Carol Henderson said she also thinks the report shows improvement, especially regarding updating general education requirements.
“Over the last two years, the entire faculty has been engaged in the process of articulating particular learning outcomes for courses and degree programs and documenting those efforts,” she said. “And since President Rochon has arrived, he’s been doing a great job of [revising] and setting strategic goals, which meets the [Standard 12] recommendation.”
She said the provost asked all programs to identify learning outcomes for every major and degree and to measure those outcomes against specified criteria.
The School of Humanities and Sciences has been organizing a departmental and school-wide process of measuring learning outcomes through exit exams, subject area exams and assignments in senior capstone courses, according to David Garcia, the executive associate dean.
“We’ve also held development activities for faculty to write better goals [for their courses] in looking at how to cast goals in ways that are most helpful in assessment activities,” he said.
Henderson, who chaired the search committee for a learning assessment director, said no one was hired for the position in part because of budgetary constraints but moreso because they could not find a suitable candidate. Instead, some of the duties of this job have been assigned to Bashar Hanna, associate provost for programs and initiatives.
Stan Seltzer, chair of the faculty council, said Provost Rountree did not speak about the monitoring report at their most recent council meeting April 6, but said he expects to hear from her after the commission reviews the report in June.