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ERIC Number: ED498996
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Apr
Pages: 3
Abstractor: Author
First Do No Harm. Carnegie Perspectives
McCormick, Alexander C.
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
The author expresses concern that launching an accountability initiative without careful consideration may do more harm than good. A well-designed accountability system, writes McCormick, motivates substantive change and useful diagnostic tools must not be undermined in the name of accountability. Several new college-quality initiatives offer participating sophisticated assessments of effective educational practices and of their students' critical thinking, analytic and writing skills relative to their peers: this is valuable information that presidents, deans, department chairs, and faculty members can use to improve the quality of college education. A proposed provision to statistics to be gathered by the National Center for Educations Statistics would add an "accountability" section to its annual compilation of college and university data, wherein institutions report the assessments they participate in and their "score" on each one. Knowing which assessments a college uses is a good idea, but reporting scores to the government, McCormick writes, will do more harm than good by transforming a diagnostic exercise into grading and ranking. When such information is made public, the emphasis shifts quickly from diagnosis to damage control. The writer acknowledges that if the Department of Education does not produce rankings, others will. If student survey responses are used to determine their college's standing, and by extension, the value of their degree, students may act in their own self-interest to make their college look good, compromising the fundamental requirement of candor for useful information or colleges may simply opt out of performance-based assessments because participation would risk too severe a public-relations penalty. Not all diagnostic information, the writer reiterates, is suitable for accountability and consumer information.
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 51 Vista Lane, Stanford, CA 94305. Tel: 650-566-5102; Fax: 650-326-0278; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Menlo Park, CA.