A comparison of the beliefs of state legislators and community college assessment practitioners toward implementation of mandated student outcomes assessment guidelines in the Commonwealth of Virginia

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Virginia Tech


Virginia's mandated student outcomes assessment program, as created by Senate Joint Resolution No. 83 in 1986, allowed community colleges in the Commonwealth latitude in developing their own assessment strategies. These strategies have developed slowly and with some inconsistency.

The purpose of this study is to determine the congruency of beliefs about the implementation of Virginia's student outcomes assessment program between purposefully selected members of the Virginia General Assembly and community college assessment practitioners.

Data for this study were derived from the review of public documents, and the execution of a survey instrument, the results of which were used to develop interviews with designated state legislators and community college assessment practitioners. The interviews became the primary data source for the study.

Findings indicate that the legislative participants believe that used by all community colleges across Virginia would be more appropriate than approaches specifically geared to individual institutional missions. Practitioner respondents differ on this issue. The legislators generally believe that the use of a standardized testing approach administered across all community colleges could be beneficial. The practitioners beliefs differ, though not markedly, from the legislative group.

Legislators are evenly divided on the issue of using assessment results for institutional comparison. The practitioner group express reservations concerning this prospect. There exists modest differences of belief between the groups concerning the appropriation of general funds to support individual community colleges based on assessment results.

The study findings point to congruence of belief among legislative and practitioner respondents when considering the implementation of outcomes assessment in the area of general education. Agreement of beliefs is also found among the practitioner and legislative groups in the implementation of assessment guidelines affecting the communication of assessment results with the citizenry, accountability issues relating to discontinuance of programs, quality assurance, etc., and the role of assessment in Virginia’s college transfer processes.