Minutes of April 30, 2007
3 p.m., Holmes Student Center – HSC 505

Present: Alden, Bond (for Bose), Cassidy, Dowen, Freedman, House, Marcellus, Olson, Seaver, Waas, Williams

Guests: Donna Askins, Research Associate, Office of the Provost; Carolinda Douglass, Coordinator, Assessment Services

The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of March 26, 2007, and the motion passed unanimously.

At our last meeting when we looked at the follow-up report on the B.A./B.S. in Journalism there was a question about the enrollment vs. graduation data. We received a response from the chair, who contacted the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Bowling Green State University. He did not hear back from Bowling Green State University, but their program is part of a school of communication. In some schools of communication students tend to move easily among majors, and it is difficult to track them. The University of Wisconsin-Madison response was that the students who make it through their selective admissions process are highly motivated and academically strong.

An email survey has been sent to all elected APC members asking you to review the council’s duties and the extent to which these duties were addressed this year (2006-2007). The deadline to turn in this survey is tomorrow.

Historically in the spring the APC reviews the previous year’s Performance Report that is submitted to the IBHE in September with an eye toward information that can be included in this year’s report. This past year there were very few changes in the format. Some of the information in our 2006 Performance Report has been included in the 2006 Statewide Performance Report. This year the IBHE is not requiring universities to submit performance reports because they are starting a strategic planning process. Part of this process may be eliminating the Illinois Commitment as the statewide master plan. The IBHE still wants information on the licensure pass rates for law and nursing majors and the number of undergraduates meeting initial teacher certification requirements. Last year we noted minor changes in the report format, and a few of our target indicators no longer fit. We had planned on looking at this issue this year, but we will wait until we find out what is going to happen with the performance report format and requirements.

This year’s budget process seems to be somewhat chaotic. There is a series of budgetary priorities based on previous needs. The IBHE proposes that some funding be based on priorities. NIU’s priorities fit with the IBHE priorities (workforce development, persistence, and efficiency). The total budget request is $9 million, and our largest priority is mission critical faculty. After the first of the year the governor’s office contacted NIU about priorities, and House and Senate members asked what we would do if NIU was allocated an additional 5 percent. NIU’s priorities were looked at again, and the additional funds were integrated into the request. NIU representatives talked to the House Appropriations Committee in March. Last week the Provost testified at the Senate on behalf of President Peters. The Senate had the information from the IBHE in their books. A representative asked everyone to focus on needs; NIU was the last one to testify, and the testimony focused on students and university needs. The increase in enrollment and the decrease in faculty were discussed, and the fact that the Stevens Building had been number one on the capital budget for the last 10 years. No questions were asked. There does seem to be some potential for a republican push for a higher budget for public education. It is unclear where the democrats stand on this issue. The 1.9 percent is a starting point, and hopefully it will go up from there. The capital budget may or may not go up. The IBHE is asking that the rest of the money should be allocated to the IBHE, and they would run a competitive grant program for the funds (similar to HECA). This would be difficult to do because much of the funds would be used to hire faculty. The budget process is about a month behind schedule, NIU will probably not know what our budget is until sometime this summer.

When we had our site visit from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in 2004, the team recommended that NIU submit a progress report on assessment, particularly assessment related activities in general education and graduate programs by July of this year. This report has been shared with the UAP, it is on the agenda for the Council of Deans and the Graduate Council, it will be discussed by the General Education Committee, and sent to the associate deans for review and comment. It is important to get feedback on the content of the report from the APC. This is a very focused report that summarizes the changes made since the site team was here and progress that has been made in further developing a systematic process for assessment activities, data tracking, and feedback. There is some historical information in the kinds of assessment occurring in general education. When the site team was here, someone said that the General Education Committee was not engaged in assessment activities. All of the comments made after that about the committee being engaged in assessment activities were not heard, even though we did a presentation at the Higher Learning Commission meeting on these activities. We reiterated in this report some of the things that were going on previously (i.e., the writing project) and incorporated the new initiatives that the committee has going on now. The issue with the graduate programs was that there was a long lag time between submitting assessment plans and receiving feedback on those plans. All of these programs have now received feedback, and an annual update report on a program’s assessments and how they are using this information is part of the process; this requirement includes both graduate and undergraduate programs. The programs are strong in reporting assessment methods, but less strong on information regarding students achieving their outcomes. We have made good progress in these areas, and everyone is participating in this initiative.

When we talked to our liaison at the Higher Learning Commission last March, we were told to answer the questions and focus the discussion on implementation. This report will be reviewed by a staff member at the commission, and they will make a recommendation to the board about the adequacy of the report. The fact that NIU supports departmental assessment projects (i.e., capstone development, portfolio development, etc.) and presenting and attending assessment conferences should be added to the report. At some of these conferences, we are represented as experts. There was also a concern that there was not much information on general education courses offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and this is why we targeted these students for the writing projects and focus groups. We will be rewriting this report until the end of May. Please let us know if you have other comments by the end of the semester.

The Spellings Commission on the future of higher education has placed a strong emphasis on “high-stakes” testing to track gains in core competencies from admission to graduation. Accrediting bodies are under increasing pressure to incorporate requirements for testing and targets for test results and this may be part of the next visit by the HLC. The high stakes testing may become a mandate within the next couple of years.

An analysis has been done on three tests discussed most frequently to measure core competencies: the CAAP (from ACT), CLA, and MAPP (from ETS). We are comparing these tests against each other to help guide us in thinking about which test would best represent our general education program and provide us with the most useful information. At this time, institutions using these tests are sampling about 100 incoming students and 100 graduating students. Some institutions track cohorts of incoming students and other institutions use a cross-sectional model. The biggest issue is getting the students to take the tests seriously.

The Spellings Commission wants a report card on every institution in the country. The RAND Foundation found that there is a high correlation between the ACT and CLA, and there is only 5 to 10 percent value added. The Spellings Commission is pushing value added because not all institutions have comparable students. NSSE, which is a measure of student engagement, is another component of the report card.

Since this summary on the tests (distributed with the agenda) was prepared, we have looked at the IBHE comparison group (Group 13) that includes NIU and asked institutions in the group what tests they were using along with other questions. We found out that no one is using the MAPP, and it is pretty evenly divided between the CLA and CAAP. Some institutions had incentives for students, but they turned out not to be much of an incentive for students.

Our concern is that unless we start working with these tests now, we will not have a sense about our ability to make this work. There are many logistics to be considered about administering the test. It also seems that this would have real implications for our general education program. It is clear that whatever test we use that it needs to match up with our general education requirements. We contacted other public institutions in the state, and we found that this issue was not even on their radar. Next year we will probably have to do some trial runs to see what test we want to use. The costs of this initiative will be high, especially since essays will need to be scored. We might want to think about getting some of our faculty trained so we can get some insight on this issue.

The APC members were updated on the Strategic Planning Task Force initiative. There will be a roundtable on Thursday night and Friday to review what the work group reports. The Learning Alliance will take the feedback from this meeting to consolidate a draft strategic planning document that can be distributed in June. Next academic year we will start working on the college level plans. There is a Strategic Planning Task Force website that can be accessed from the faculty and staff page on the NIU homepage. The reports from the four work groups have been posted on this site, and there is an opportunity to provide comments and feedback on the reports.

This is the last meeting of the academic year, and I want to thank all of you, particularly the subcommittee members and chairs. We appreciate your hard work. There is some very strong effort for accountability, and this is an important part of the mission of this group.

The meeting adjourned at 4:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Carolyn A. Cradduck