ASSESStivus keynote emphasizes accountability

In celebration of the second annual ASSESStivus: Assessment for the Rest of Us on Wednesday Sept. 18, Ephraim Schechter presented a keynote address on the aims of assessment. According to the Geneseo website, ASSESStivus is day set aside to embrace “the model of continuous improvement while highlighting assessment initiatives, sharing back information and utilizing best practices.” Geneseo implemented ASSESStivus following its Middle States accreditation in an attempt to raise awareness of the importance of transforming Geneseo into a premier liberal arts college.

Schechter is a nationally renowned expert on assessment in higher education. He provides consultation and assistance for outcome assessment programs at various universities throughout the country.

In addition to his lectures, he is the founder and director of, a website that he said provides “consultation and assistance,” as well as various workshops, to colleges and universities that are “developing and implementing outcomes assessment programs.”

According to Schechter, he was chosen to give the lecture during ASSESStivus due to his career as an academic department head and assessment director at the University of Colorado at Boulder and North Carolina State University for over 25 years. He made a previous appearance at Geneseo in 2006.

Schechter’s address titled “So Who (and What) Is It For” was focused on fostering a culture of assessment at Geneseo.

He defined the word “assessment” by discussing who it affects, including faculty, current students and their parents, as well as prospective students and their parents, graduates’ employers, administrators, accreditors and legislators.

Schechter said he encourages educators to ask themselves various questions regarding their curriculum and assessment, including, “How could the curriculum be structured to achieve the outcomes you want to achieve? What are we trying to do? How are we doing? How do we use that knowledge?”

Schechter also discussed two general purposes of assessment: program planning and improvement and accountability reporting, or as Schechter said, “telling the story.”

“What’s important is how the results get used,” Schechter said.

Schechter said that one of the main problems with assessment is “teaching to the test,” since the majority of students seem to be focused on merely getting high grades on tests without actually being able to apply their knowledge to real life situations.

He said that many educators make the mistake of basing their curriculum on the question, “Will this be on the test?”

“Grades do not give you enough detail,” he said. “Three students can receive [the same grade] for completely different reasons. What we are doing cannot be measured with numbers.”