August 14, 2017

External Reporting Agencies and Requirements

External Reporting Agencies and Requirements

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

As the institution’s accreditor, SACSCOC requires “The institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of seeking improvement based on analysis of the results for student learning outcomes for collegiate-level general education competencies of its undergraduate degree programs.” (Principle 8.2.b). This principle requires the institution to define competencies for its general education program and identify measures used to determine student achievement of those competencies. SACSCOC instructs institutions of higher education to use assessment results to guide decision-making about programs and services, and to demonstrate evidence-based improvement.

It should be noted that SACSCOC has revised the Principles of Accreditation, and the requirement for assessment of general education competencies has been revised for the next reaffirmation cycle. Changes were approved during the SACSCOC Annual Meeting in December 2017. For more information:

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)

The Code of Virginia § 23.1-203 requires SCHEV to work with higher education institutions in the state to develop guidelines and strategies for assessment of student achievement, and to publicly report the results for use in state-level strategic planning. SCHEV has recently adopted an assessment policy that was implemented in in the 2017-18 academic year. The policy requires the assessment of six competencies, defined by SCHEV, to include:

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Written communication
  3. Quantitative reasoning
  4. Civic engagement
  5. Competency area to be selected in accordance with institutional priorities for student learning and development
  6. Competency area to be selected in accordance with institutional priorities for student learning and development

The policy requires the development and application of at least one learning outcome per area, to be assessed using direct measures (i.e. the review of student work or performance). In this regard, the policy states:

Assessment of the six competencies may be done at the level of general education, disciplinary and interdisciplinary majors, curricular and co-curricular programs, or a combination of these, depending on the needs and priorities of the institution and the particular outcome being assessed. Assessment strategies may include methods that generate quantitative data, qualitative data, or both. Indirect methods (such as surveys and student self-reports of achievement) and logical inferences may be used as a complement to the direct assessments described above (page 6).

The policy provides a reporting template that outlines required achievement data to be disaggregated by student “characteristics used to define underrepresented populations” (page 6).

To access the full assessment policy, download the PDF.

Specialized Accrediting Agencies

Many of Mason’s degree programs have earned accreditation through specialized or professional accrediting agencies (e.g. ABET, AACSB, NCATE). The responsibility for assessment and reporting of student achievement for specialized accreditation lies with the program or college maintaining accreditation. Assessment for Mason Core can be used to support specialized accreditations, and relevant data and results generated by this assessment process will be shared with programs for their use in reporting to their accreditors.