Fredrick deBoer and New America, with support from the Lumina Foundation, have published the report Standardized Assessments of College Learning: Past and Future. The report provides an overview of the current context for standardized assessments in college, issues regarding standardized assessments, and recommendations for disciplinary approaches to assessment. The report acknowledges criticisms of standardized tests of college learning, which include the tests being reductive and not discipline-specific. However, the report does not recommend dismissing standardized tests of college learning as invalid, but rather ensuring that faculty and local administrators are part of the institutional assessment process, and that this process include not only standardized tests designed by testing companies but also discipline-specific assessments designed by faculty. Of special interest to WPAs is an example in the report of writing program assessment focused on random samples of student timed writing essays scored holistically by faculty. The report acknowledges that portfolio assessment is a current best practice in the field of writing studies, but critiques portfolio assessment as low in reliability and burdensome. The report can be found at
This report from New America and the Lumina Foundation speaks to the importance for writing program administrators and writing teachers of getting involved in institutional assessment to ensure that disciplinary best practices for assessing writing are considered. The involvement of writing studies experts in institutional writing assessment is especially critical in the context discussed in the report of the rising corporate influence on education and the push to use standardized testing products designed by for-profit companies rather than teachers in local contexts. Even though the report acknowledges critiques of standardized tests of college learning, it offers as an alternative an an outdated model of writing program assessment (the scoring of timed writing themes) and criticizes what is widely accepted as the current best practice in writing assessment, portfolio assessment (see the CCCC and NCTE position statements and white papers on writing assessment at http://www.ncte.org/positions/assessment).