Background of SVCC Assessment

The 2005 Assessment Plan is the third developed at the College. The preceding plans had considerable strengths, but they primarily failed through lack of a college-wide system to ensure follow through and to communicate findings into the planning process. Development of the current plan was somewhat simplified by the previous work of faculty in the development of these earlier efforts.

The 1995-1996 Assessment Plan

The original Sauk Valley Community College Assessment Plan, drafted in 1995 and revised in 1996 Reference, attempted to align assessment practices with the goals of the institution. At that time, the visiting team stated that the assessment plan should . . .

  1. Be linked to the mission, goals, and objectives of the institution.
  2. Show evidence of faculty participation and be institution-wide in conceptualization and scope.
  3. Be used for program and planning improvement.
  4. Provide timelines which are appropriate and realistic.
  5. Provide for appropriate administration of the assessment program.

The Vice President of Instructional Services was named as the responsible administrator for the assessment initiative. In 1996, the Vice President and a faculty member co-chaired a committee appointed to develop a program of assessment. This committee was named the Outcomes Assessment Task Force, a title which accurately described its limited focus.

Notable features. In response to the first two criteria, the 1996 plan called for course outlines to highlight the integration of stated outcomes of individual courses with the mission of the College. Although largely targeted at individual courses and student performance, the plan created awareness among faculty and staff of the importance of assessment and of the relationship between individual courses and the goals of the institution. Furthermore, faculty was introduced to outcomes-based assessment and the idea of creating authentic measures based on demonstrable skills. More notable features of the plan were separating general education and the catalog distribution requirements from the program and career goals; convening a committee to define general education requirements; and acknowledging the related nature of student performance, academic programs, student services, and the administration. This document indicates planning for a program of assessment that would be institution-wide in conceptualization and scope.

Flaws. A significant failing of the 1995-1996 plan was the lack of specific measures of student academic performance that could be used to plan and improve programs. Although the plan indicates that the five-year program review cycle will derive information from ongoing and formative assessment practices, what tangible data, other than grade distributions, would be expected to inform the process is unclear. Little evidence exists that an actual plan had been created by the faculty for the betterment of the institution.

It is understood that the College was working through the introductory stages of assessment. Authentic assessment programs require significant faculty buy-in, and it is clear that the assessment team at that time intended for a deliberate implementation that would increase faculty ownership of the plan, as well as create an institutional model that was neither artificial nor a “quick fix.” The assessment team recognized the process as iterative, and expected the plan to mature as the cycle progressed.

The 2001 Assessment Plan

The 2001 assessment plan describes the process in the years following the 1996 plan. Reference The plan notes that employee turnover stagnated the assessment process, an indication that the process was not defined well enough to be self-perpetuating regardless of personnel shifts, which is a critical flaw. The plan notes that little assessment documentation had occurred in the intervening years, which leaves a question as to the credibility of the claim that the formal assessment process was used to inform yearly operational plans, program reviews, and the budgeting cycle.

Notable features. The 2001 plan does distinguish between accountability, academic assessment, and institutional effectiveness. It also creates specific learning outcomes for each area of general education, which is a direct follow-through on the directives of the 1995-1996 plan. The plan also notes that the original mission statement, to which all course outlines were aligned, had been modified in the intervening years. The plan outlines a formal committee structure for both assessment and institutional effectiveness and organizes both to be standing committees with the task of interpreting data to make recommendations for improvement.

Flaws. Theoretically, these improvements suggest a desire on the part of the College to be engaged in the assessment process, but they do not suggest the level of maturity that might be expected to have been reached in the years between the 1996 introduction of the formal plan and the modification in 2001. Notably, the plan relies heavily on the use of standardized testing in the form of the CAAP to define success in the area of general education instruction, as well as cursory examination of grade distribution, GPAs, and transfer rates. While certainly effective tools to complement internally-generated data, this reliance seems a retreat from the 1995-1996 plan’s attempt to create a faculty-driven process. The highly external measures suggested in the 2001 plan, while valuable in providing normative data for the College, cannot be expected to create a full picture of the process of teaching and learning that takes place at Sauk Valley Community College.