Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education Announce Massachusetts As Eighth Partner State in AAC&U’s LEAP States Initiative
March 20—The Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education announced today that Massachusetts is now a state partner in AAC&U’s signature national initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College.
“Massachusetts sought to become a LEAP partner state because the LEAP vision for learning and its approach to student learning outcomes assessment is so consistent with Massachusetts’ Vision Project for achieving academic excellence across public higher education,” said Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Richard M. Freeland. “LEAP offers an extraordinary model for how our campuses can best prepare students for post-graduate life as engaged citizens and highly-skilled contributors to Massachusetts’ knowledge-based economy.”
The LEAP initiative provides a framework for Massachusetts’ groundbreaking work, through the Vision Project, to develop a model for system-level assessment of student learning, one that relies on campus-based approaches linking assessment to actual curricula and real student work rather than on standardized testing. The goal is to identify ways to compare and then publicly report the level of learning achieved by public college and university students with the level of learning achieved by students at peer institutions in other states.
In May AAC&U and SHEEO, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, will join Massachusetts in hosting a multi-state conference to explore participation in the Massachusetts initiative to develop a system-level assessment plan.
“AAC&U is pleased to welcome Massachusetts into full partnership with AAC&U’s LEAP initiative,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “Massachusetts already has established a leadership role among the various state systems both in its shared vision for high quality education and in its recognition that any contemporary vision for learning also requires new ways of showing what students are accomplishing across their studies. I am certain that the entire AAC&U membership will benefit from the models developed through this work.”
March 6—The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted today to begin tracking public college and university success in producing the “best-educated citizenry” in the nation, effective 2013, as part of the Vision Project. Specifically, the Board action will require the Department of Higher Education to “develop a plan for incorporating a civic education and engagement key outcome” into the Vision Project, which already includes the key outcomes of national leadership in College Participation, College Completion, Student Learning, Workforce Alignment, Closing Achievement Gaps, and University Research. The new focus on citizenship was suggested by dozens of faculty members attending Vision Project meetings at campuses across the state.
“Educating our students for citizenship is one of the most fundamental – and often neglected – responsibilities of colleges and universities in the United States,” said Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education. “By placing this work at the center of the Vision Project and in keeping with the goals and promise of liberal education, Massachusetts public higher education is affirming its role in nurturing a responsible democracy.”
According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Massachusetts is poised to be the first state to add student civic engagement to its portfolio of system-wide performance measurements, along with such commonly tracked statistics as graduation rates and performance on licensure exams. The plan calls for the state to compare its work with similar efforts undertaken by other states, underscoring the seriousness with which the Board views the Commonwealth’s civic education mission.
“We are at a moment in history when public discouragement with the democratic process appears to be at an all-time high,” said Charles Desmond, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. “Our colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to renew our civic vitality and provide meaningful opportunities for students to engage fully and enthusiastically as citizens. I believe this is the most important work that we can do in higher education.”
Massachusetts public colleges and universities have a long history of fostering civic engagement through service learning opportunities, internships and through the establishment of policy institutes that engage students in local and global civic action.
Massachusetts LEAP State Proposal Receives Campus and Board of Higher Education Endorsements, Moves Toward Submission
January 31—The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted today to authorize Commissioner Freeland to apply to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for status as a Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) State. LEAP State status will allow the Commonwealth to work with other states to devise a system for inter-state comparisons of student learning outcomes.
“We are the only state in the country that has gotten this far in the discussion,” said Commissioner Freeland, calling Massachusetts’ work on learning outcomes and assessment “absolutely revolutionary.”
The Board vote came after a painstaking two-year process of consensus-building which included dozens of campus meetings, discussion and debates, research efforts and the release of multi-phase reports by the Vision Project Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment. Campus leaders and faculty have wrestled with the question of how to create a statewide plan for learning outcomes assessment that builds on campus assessment programs that are formative and adds features that allow for public presentation and comparisons with other states. The AAC&U model was favored in part because of its focus on the quality of student learning and the extensive involvement of faculty in the development of LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes and VALUE Rubrics for use in assessment.
“We are convinced that we can do a better job with learning outcomes assessment if we can work with campuses and with other states,” said Patricia Crosson, the DHE’s Senior Advisor for Academic Policy, who led the Working Group and summarized the evidence to support the LEAP proposal.
Commissioner Freeland noted that the Board vote is not for implementation, only to open the door to a process that will involve most public campuses in Massachusetts and a set of state partners drawn from LEAP States or other states that support Massachusetts' initiative to develop a new model for system-level learning outcomes assessment—one that supports both strong campus programs and responsiveness to the accountability needs of public systems of higher education. He said the state’s work on learning outcomes assessment held the promise of making “a significant contribution to American public higher education.”
The Department will now finalize the application and submit it to the AAC&U later in February.
At its January 31 meeting, the Board of Higher Education invited three of the 18 campuses that received FY2012 funding from the $2.5 million Vision Project Performance Incentive Fund to provide status reports on the implementation of their grant initiatives. The Performance Incentive Fund is designed to support innovative work that will advance the Vision Project goals for Massachusetts' national leadership in certain key educational outcome areas. The Board has requested an increase to $10 million for the Performance Incentive Fund for FY2013; Governor Patrick's budget proposal, released January 25, includes level funding of $2.5 million.
Bunker Hill Community College: $200K grant to support a wide array of Vision Project activities
Bunker Hill Community College received a grant of $200,802 to fund a variety of activities that support all of the key educational outcomes of the Vision Project—College Participation through academic "boot camps," College Completion through BHCC's "LifeMap" initiative, Student Learning through integration of e-portfolios in learning assessment, Workforce Alignment through collaboration with the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership on paid internships, and Elimination of Disparities through BHCC's emphasis on access for underserved populations in all of its activities. President Mary Fifield described for the Board the status of all of the PIF-funded initiatives and also demonstrated the overall alignment of BHCC's strategic goals with the goals of the Vision Project.
Framingham State University: $59K PIF grant to redesign intro STEM courses to increase student interest
Faculty member Vandana Singh, assistant professor of physical sciences, described her department's work to redesign lower-level STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses to increase student interest, such as the redesign of an introductory science course for elementary education majors to emphasize science as a tool to tell the story of the universe. The courses, being offered for the first time this semester, are showing early indications of greater student engagement. She also explained that the PIF grant has strengthened faculty collaboration and covered expenses for student field trips and other activities to enhance learning that may not have been possible otherwise. Framingham State University's work supports the Vision Project key outcome areas of Workforce Alignment and Elimination of Disparities.
UMass Lowell: $108K PIF grant to create programs to close skill gaps for required courses
UMass Lowell Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney described UMass Lowell's work to develop "bridge programs" to address skill gaps among freshmen and transfer students in lab sciences, math, and writing. UMass Lowell has used the PIF funds to support faculty development of innovative models for these programs, including the use of interactive technology and video for supplemental instruction and study groups led by student mentors, which are ultimately intended to improve student success in courses that tend to have high stop-out rates. UMass Lowell's work supports the Vision Project key outcome areas of College Completion, Workforce Alignment, and Elimination of Disparities.
Commissioner Freeland Testifies Before Massachusetts Jobs Creation Commission on Workforce Development
December 12—Commissioner Freeland recently testified at a State House hearing convened by the Legislature’s Jobs Creation Commission about the Vision Project’s impact upon the Commonwealth’s workforce development efforts. His testimony was the subject of news coverage by WWLP, Channel 22 in Springfield:
At the December 2011 Board of Higher Education meeting, Commissioner Richard Freeland announced the awarding of six Advancing a Massachusetts Culture of Assessment (AMCOA) grants to faculty and assessment experts at single institutions or collaborations between or among institutions to engage in assessment experiments. Overall, these assessment experiments involve 14 public colleges and universities scoring authentic student work that demonstrates students’ achievement of selected general education outcomes, such as writing, critical thinking, or quantitative reasoning. These experiments will also demonstrate ways to report students’ achievement of these outcomes through the development or design of campus-based assessment reporting systems. These assessment reporting systems will contribute to eventual statewide (1) accountability and (2) improvement of student learning reporting system.
Submitted proposals were evaluated and ranked by five AMCOA Team members based on the following agreed upon criteria:
- Clarity of the proposal in addressing how the assessment experiment will focus on the grant parameters
- Collaboration on or across campuses leading potentially to a system-wide approach
- Sustainability of the experiment with respect to resource requirements, faculty workload, and institutional buy-in
- Scalability of the experiment across the State system of higher education
- Usability of assessment results within and across institutions, including identifying areas of strength and weakness in student learning and developing plans to improve performance in revealed areas of weakness
Most of the proposals involve collaborations between two-year and four-year institutions focused on applying agreed-upon criteria to student work and then designing useful ways to report scoring results, including web-based options. The following institutions received funding:
- Bristol and Massasoit Community Colleges
“The CONNECT AMCOA Assessment Experiment”
- Fitchburg State University, Mount Wachusett Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, and Worcester State University
“Central Massachusetts Partnership to Assess Written Communication”
- Framingham State University and MassBay Community College
“Two- or Four-Year Institution—Doesn’t Matter: Student Success is Student Success”
- Holyoke Community College
“Integrating Quantitative Reasoning Modules into High Impact Courses to Improve Student Performance and Curricula Design”
- Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
“Written Communication Assessment”
- Middlesex Community College, Northern Essex Community College and UMass Lowell
“Using Assessment to Develop Interdisciplinary Writing Standards across College Levels: A Collaborative Model for Two- and Four-Year Institutions”
Developments in these assessment experiments will be shared at the fourth statewide AMCOA assessment conference to be held April 23, 2012, at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Further information about this conference will be announced in March. For further information about these experiments or the April conference, please contact Peggy Maki, Assessment Consultant for the AMCOA Project at email@example.com.
Funding for these grants was provided by a recent generous grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc., to the Department of Higher Education to advance Massachusetts public colleges’ and universities’ commitment to assessing student learning, the AMCOA Project.
18 Public Campuses Win Competitive Grants to Spur Innovation, Improve Graduation Rates under the Vision Project
On September 6, Governor Deval Patrick announced the recipients of $2.5 million in funding through the Performance Incentive Fund (PIF), a competitive grant program designed to spur innovation in public higher education. Through this program, eighteen Massachusetts public colleges and universities across the Commonwealth will receive state funding to supplement their base budgets to spur innovative programs and reward campus efforts to improve educational outcomes.
Funding for this program, proposed by Governor Patrick in his fiscal year 2012 budget, will be used to support a variety of new and existing programs to improve college readiness and attendance of high school graduates, as well as college graduation and student success rates. The funds will also be used to expand programs linked to the state’s future workforce needs by preparing students for jobs in high-demand fields. An independent, external review panel evaluated proposals submitted by each of Massachusetts’ 29 public campuses and made recommendations for funding.
“The innovative strategies that will be advanced through these grants demonstrate our commitment to provide all students with access to a world-class education,” said Governor Patrick. “Today we are making an investment in our campuses that will increase opportunities for students and strengthen our workforce, leaving a better Commonwealth for generations to come.”
Among the campus programs chosen to receive PIF funding:
College readiness and attendance: Quinsigamond Community College will partner with the Worcester public schools to “plug the leaks in the math pipeline,” an effort to improve students’ math skills.
Graduation Rates and Student Success: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will launch 30 in 3, an initiative aimed at helping freshmen complete 30 credits in three semesters in order to remain on track for graduation.
Student Learning: UMass Boston plans to use grant funds to build a program of student learning assessment for both core courses and specific disciplines.
Workforce Preparation: North Shore Community College will launch an academic/career mapping initiative to strengthen connections between workforce training college credit programs.
Closing Achievement Gaps: Worcester State University’s grant will be used to create a Teaching Corps program in its Latino Education Institute.
>> Read the Governor's press release
>> View the Performance Incentive Fund FY2012 Award Fact Sheet (.PDF) for more information, including descriptions of all funded projects.
Administration Announces $2.5 Million Performance Incentive Fund for Higher Education, Business Leaders Hail "Excellence and Accountability" Goals
The Patrick-Murray Administration announced on July 11, 2011, the establishment of a $2.5 million Performance Incentive Fund for public higher education as part of the Fiscal Year 2012 budget signed by Governor Deval L. Patrick. The Administration praised the Legislature for supporting the Performance Incentive Fund which was filed as part of the Governor’s initial FY12 budget proposal with wide support from education officials and business leaders.
"The Performance Incentive Fund recognizes that a strong public higher education system is critical to our success as a Commonwealth," said Governor Patrick. "These funds provide additional resources while challenging campuses to pursue aggressive reforms."
The Performance Incentive Fund supports a competitive grant-making process to allow campuses to enact policies or create programs to help them advance the goals of the Vision Project, the state’s master plan to establish the Commonwealth’s public higher education system as a national leader in college-going rates, college graduation rates, student learning, success in meeting workforce needs and closing achievement gaps. The grants competition is open to all 15 community colleges, nine state universities, and campuses of the University of Massachusetts. An external review panel appointed by Higher Education Commissioner Richard M. Freeland will review campus proposals, due on August 1, 2011.
"This fund provides an important opportunity for performance-based innovation in public higher education,” said Dan O’Connell, President & CEO of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. “Commissioner Freeland has reached out to the business community and established a close working relationship as we strive to make our public higher education institutions the best in the country."
Board of Higher Education Receives Final Reports from Two Vision Project Working Groups
June 7, 2011—The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education received the final reports from two Working Groups of the Vision Project: the Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment and the Working Group on Graduation and Student Success Rates.
Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment
The Phase Two Report from the Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment (.PDF), the second and final report from this Working Group, summarized the findings from their examination of state-level issues related to learning outcomes assessment, including accountability, accreditation, quality assurance testing, and comparability, and of policies and practices in Massachusetts in comparison to other states. In addition the Working Group presented a prototype "Plan for Statewide Learning Outcomes Assessment" that embodies their findings and recommendations. In voting to receive the Working Group's report, the Board also voted to:
- direct the Commissioner to begin immediately to plan for submission of a proposal for status as a LEAP (the "Liberal Education and America's Promise" initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities) partner state, including an effort to identify states with which Massachusetts might appropriately compare learning outcomes; and
- encourage the colleges and universities, as part of their continuing discussions of the Working Group’s report, to initiate analyses of the LEAP learning outcomes in comparison with their local statements of learning outcomes.
Additionally, the Board acknowledged that consultations with the colleges and universities regarding additional aspects of the Working Group’s report are continuing and anticipates that the Commissioner may seek additional Board approvals of specific actions related to the report’s recommendations at a later date.
Related to the report from the Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment, the Board also heard a presentation on the analytic approach (.PDF) that the Department is using to examine the available data on student learning outcomes.
Working Group on Graduation and Student Success Rates
The Final Report from the Working Group on Graduation and Student Success Rates (.PDF) outlined recommended graduation and student success rate goals by 2016 and 2021 for the community colleges, state universities, and the University of Massachusetts benchmarked to peers; reviewed campus goals and plans to improve graduation and student success rates and made recommendations on how campuses and the Department of Higher Education can most effectively proceed; and reviewed and prioritized existing and emergent statewide policies and practices that support the increase of graduation and student success rates. In voting to accept the Working Group's report, the Board directed the Commissioner to work with the campuses to implement all of the recommendations.
Examining UMass Research and Economic Activity Within the Vision Project
May 3, 2011—Representatives of the University of Massachusetts made a presentation to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education on the Research and Economic Activity outcome of the Vision Project, which focuses on achieving national leadership in research activity and resulting economic development by the state's public research university, the University of Massachusetts. The presentation to the Board provided their first glimpse of UMass' current work and national standings related to those outcomes.
Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment Releases Recommendations for System-wide Assessment
March 21, 2011—The Vision Project's Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment has released its Phase Two Report (.PDF). This Phase Two report draws upon findings and recommendations from the first report and reflects a diligent effort on the part of the Working Group to:
- consider a number of state-level issues related to learning outcomes assessment—accountability, comparability, transparency, tests, and rankings;
- provide an analysis on where Massachusetts stands in comparison to other states with respect to policies and practices; and
- provide a plan for system-wide learning outcomes assessment based on a set of common learning outcomes and assessment measures that builds on and supports strong campus-based assessment programs.
The Working Group's Proposed Model for Statewide Learning Outcomes Assessment in Massachusetts
Commissioner Freeland has asked the presidents of all public higher education institutions to distribute the report to chief academic officers and other faculty and staff who work on student learning outcomes assessment and provide him with their feedback to the Working Group's recommendations by the end of April.
Davis Educational Foundation Awards $268,000 Grant to Support "Exciting, Ambitious" Vision Project
February 3, 2011—The Davis Educational Foundation has awarded a $268,000 grant to the Department of Higher Education to further the work of the Vision Project in the area of learning outcomes assessment. In his award letter to the DHE, the Foundation’s interim Board chair commented, “We view the (Vision Project) initiative as exciting, ambitious and offering tremendous potential to students and campuses.”
The Davis grant will enable the Department of Higher Education to:
- engage an assessment expert to assist with work in the area of learning outcomes assessment,
- hold regional and statewide meetings focused on professional development and idea sharing in the field of assessment for faculty and staff,
- fund experiments and pilot projects whose results will be informative for campus programs, and
- support the creation of a system-wide network of campus representatives involved with assessment work to share information on best practices and participate in the further development of DHE activities in this arena.
The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. This is the third major foundation to support the Vision Project agenda. The Nellie Mae Foundation and the Boston Foundation have also made generous contributions.
Presentation on Initiatives and Data Related to College Participation Outcome
February 1, 2011—Department of Higher Education staff made a presentation to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education on the College Completion outcome of the Vision Project, which focuses on the policy areas of Graduation & Student Success Rates and Transfer Policy & Practice. Francesca Purcell, Associate Commissioner for Academic and P-16 Policy, explained how the Department and the public higher education system are organizing to meet their objectives under this outcome, and Jonathan Keller, Associate Commissioner for Research, Planning, and Information Systems, presented baseline data related to the outcome.
>> View the presentation (.PDF)
Governor Patrick Proposes Performance Management Set-Aside Fund for Vision Project in FY2012 Budget
January 26, 2011—In his budget recommendations for FY2012, Governor Patrick proposed the creation of a new fund to support the work of the Vision Project, referred to in House 1 as the Performance Management Set-Aside. This fund, for which the Governor has requested $7.5 million, would be managed by the Department of Higher Education and used to incentivize and reward activities by individual campuses that advance Vision Project goals. The entire fund would be directed into campus budgets to help institutions:
- achieve greater alignment between educational programs and regional workforce needs,
- improve graduation rates,
- reduce disparate educational outcomes among students from different backgrounds, or
- support work with colleagues in the K-12 system to make sure high school graduates are ready for college.
The Governor's budget recommendations are now under consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee. The House of Representatives generally passes its budget (known as House 2) and sends it to the Senate by the end of April.
$125,000 Boston Foundation Grant Supports the Vision Project
January 18, 2011—The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education will use a $125,000 grant from The Boston Foundation to support the collection and rigorous analysis of data for the Vision Project, Massachusetts' new public agenda to move the state's 29 college and university campuses into the top tier of public higher education institutions in the United States.
The funds will be used to aggressively pursue the Vision Project's goal of attaining national leadership in five key areas of achievement in public higher education, including college-going rates of high school graduates, college graduation and student success rates, ability to meet workforce needs, assessments of student learning and progress in closing achievement gaps among certain minority and socio-economic groups. The DHE plans to publish annual reports comparing Massachusetts standing to peer institutions in other states.
Presentation on Initiatives and Data Related to College Participation Outcome
December 4, 2010—Department of Higher Education staff made a presentation to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education on the College Participation outcome of the Vision Project, which focuses on the policy areas of College Readiness and College-Going Rates. Aundrea Kelley, Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative and P-16 Initiatives, explained how the Department and the public higher education system are organizing to meet their objectives under this outcome, and Jonathan Keller, Associate Commissioner for Research, Planning, and Information Systems, presented baseline data related to the outcome.
>> View the presentation (.PDF)
First Working Group Report Released: Phase I Report from Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment
October 1, 2010—The Vision Project's Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment has released its Phase One Report, including analysis and commentary on:
- the overall strengths and weaknesses of campus learning outcomes and assessment programs,
- approaches for building on our strengths even in an era of drastically constrained resources,
- possibilities for collaborative activity and/or for highlighting model programs and best practices that would be helpful to campuses and could be promoted by DHE; and
- reactions to current thinking on student learning outcomes from the Commissioner's Advisory Group on Undergraduate Education and the Liberal Education and America's Promise initiative .
Public Higher Education Leaders Meet, Outline New "Vision"
Institutional presidents, trustees, and provosts who were
among nearly 300 conference attendees.
Photo credit: Bob Michelson/Glenn Kulbako Photography.
September 30, 2010—Hundreds of delegates from Massachusetts' 29 public colleges and universities gathered at the Vision Project Academic Conference on September 30 to formally launch the work of the Vision Project. The conference included a keynote address by Commissioner Freeland, panels including leaders of Massachusetts public higher education and the business and non-profit communities, and a presentation by David Shulenburger, Vice President for Academic Affairs for the national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.