Study faults University for academics

University officials said last week that GW scored below average for academic involvement in a prominent higher education survey from 2007, though the school was rated highly for study abroad and internship work.

GW performed far above the national average in the 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement for levels of involvement in activities like internships, volunteer work and study abroad, but was below the national average in collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction and the presence of a supportive campus environment, said Cheryl Beil, associate vice president for academic planning.

She said it is troubling that the NSSE found that students spend “a lot more time working for pay and study less than students at other places.”

GW did not make the scores of the 2007 NSSE public because Beil said the test is biased toward smaller colleges. Representatives from NSSE said the test fairly measures all schools.

“Interaction with faculty should not be less at bigger places,” said Jillian Kinzie, an associate director at NSSE.

GW decided not to allow USA Today to print student NSEE scores for a story last year because “the survey works better for small liberal arts colleges,” Beil said. More than half of the 610 schools that tested their students in 2007 agreed to hand over their scores to the newspaper before they saw them. Last year was the first time GW students took the nine-year-old test, though they participated in a 1999 pilot study.

The testing of college students has accelerated in the past five years, as politicians and policymakers are increasingly concerned about what students get out of college, said Debra Humphreys, a representative from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. There were 276 colleges that participated in NSSE in 2000, its first year, and 774 in 2008.

Officials implementing the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires elementary and high school students to complete standardized testing, have said that colleges also need to be held more accountable through testing. A 2006 report commissioned by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings calls on colleges to make the results of tests like NSSE available to consumers and policymakers.

The Department of Education report states that tests like NSSE “provide colleges and universities with readily usable data to improve that experience and create benchmarks against which similar institutions can compare themselves.”

GW does not have plans to participate in the NSSE again anytime soon, but Beil said if more of GW’s 14 market basket schools sign on for the $6,000 test, then the University may sign on again a few years from now. Of the 610 schools that took the 2007 test, only four of these – Georgetown, American, Emory and University of Miami – were in GW’s market basket.

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