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CAE - Fifty Years Strong

Page history last edited by Kimberly Elsener 9 years, 11 months ago

Commission for Assessment and Evaluation

50 Years Strong

At the annual ACPA Convention in Baltimore in just a few weeks, the Commission for Assessment and Evaluation will celebrate its golden anniversary. Originally titled “Commission IX”, it was among the first eleven functional areas recognized by the association in 1961. Over the course of these past fifty years, the Commission has continued to grow, benefitting from forward-thinking leadership and an involved membership.


In 1986, Marcia Baxter Magolda chronicled the Commission’s 25-year history and, in conclusion, noted:


…while activities have changed over the history of the Commission, the major focus during each period accurately reflected the needs of the profession at the time.


Indeed, this effort to meet the needs of the profession remains a mainstay of the Commission these additional 25 years later.


Since Baxter Magolda’s reflective piece, the landscape of assessment in higher education, in general, and student affairs, in particular, has changed dramatically. Calls for higher education reform (cite sources) took hold late in the decade of the ‘80s and grew powerfully through the 1990s. Increasing demands – by the government, employers, and parent – for institutional accountability for learning left colleges and universities, as well as accrediting agencies, scrambling for means to demonstrate what students were learning and how. Grades, exam scores, and graduation rates – albeit important – no longer sufficed as indicators of learning. Student affairs professionals needed to be able to demonstrate co-curricular student learning and development as well as efforts to improve practice based on evidence.


The Commission’s focus shifted slightly, then, as the territory of assessment moved away from testing and towards student learning and institutional improvement. Efforts to enhance assessment skill capacity for student affairs professionals continued to grow as primary focal point for the Commission. Building on our history and strong foundation, today, the Commission’s mission is to “promote assessment skills and knowledge to facilitate and support student learning, development, and effective student affairs practice.” Among many others, some of the steps taken to help us achieve that mission have included:


  • Taking on leadership of the ACPA Student Affairs Assessment Institute – an annual curriculum-based institute designed to help student affairs professionals develop basic assessment skills.

  • Collaborating with the Commission for Housing and Residential Life to offer the Residential Curriculum Institute on an annual basis.

  • Sponsoring the maximum-allowed number of presentations and institutes on assessment and evaluation at the ACPA Annual Convention.

  • Developing and disseminating the Assessment Skills and Knowledge (ASK) Standards under the leadership of Alice Mitchell and Gavin Henning. These standards not only benefitted Association members but also served as a critical launching point as ACPA and NASPA sought to develop competencies for the profession.

  • Highlighting emerging best practices in the field of student affairs and assessment, first as awards presented to institutions and most recently as a monograph intended to reach a broader student affairs audience.

  • Maintaining relevant resources for association members. These resources included for several decades the maintenance of a clearinghouse of testing instruments and evaluations. Today, the Commission links members to online survey tools, assessment offices, and provides assessment tips via our websites and monthly membership newsletters.

  • Nearly doubling our membership from 450 to over 800.

  • Increasing our collaboration with other commissions and standing committees (e.g., Commission for Administrative Leadership, Commission for Housing and Residential Life) to reach even broader audiences.

  • Taking increased advantage of technology as a means to offering assessment education. We’ve offered and/or sponsored webinars, assisted with drive-in conferences, used our website to provide assessment education resources (including program presentation materials), and even used Twitter to communicate salient points from sessions at the Assessment Institute.

  • Crafting a series of monographs and publications for the association membership on such topics as emerging best practices in student affairs assessment, the role of student affairs in accreditation, and


As we look to the next 50 years, we have a tremendously solid foundation on which to build. The future of student affairs assessment and evaluation as well as student learning and development will continue to change. As it does so, Commission IX will be there to meet the ever-changing needs of our profession.


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