Dave, you stirred up some good discussion here. We have been thinking about assessment of academic programs (without squashing the life out of the program or the learner) and how to roll that assessment up to the whole institution, as part of our (http://oai.wsu.edu) accreditation-related charge.
This thinking is an extension of our earlier ‘Harvesting Gradebook’ work.
Our take on your question is to make a split between standards and standardized testing. We are asking programs to identify stakeholders and involve those stakeholders in an direct assessment of student work, and simultaneously, involve the stakeholders in a conversation with the program about what is important.
The role for the institution, and those above who monitor its performance, is to ask if the program is rigorous in assessing itself.
We’ve attempted to explain vision and methods here: http://communitylearning.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/from-student-feedback-to-university-accreditation/
I have a specific favor to ask of you and your readers — give us feedback on the rubric we use to measure academic program assessment.
To provide the feedback, I’ve prepared an online survey. It is linked from the blog post above (see #4 Invite…). Your task is to review an academic program’s report and then rate the program with the rubric (and meta comment on the rubric itself).
The task will take an hour, thanks in advance for your time