New Iowa law tests know-how of college faculty

Jens Manuel Krogstad:

A new Iowa law that mandates university faculty continuously improve their courses is the latest in a wave of legislation nationwide that seeks to hold public colleges accountable for their performance.
Starting this fall, faculty at Iowa’s public universities must administer tests that measure student learning to improve courses with 300 or more students.
Iowa’s legislation stands apart from broader efforts in other states because it seeks to dictate how faculty teach courses, said Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington.
“This legislation is clearly an aberration from the norm, in terms of legislative intrusion on university academic matters,” Hurley said.
Iowa is one of just 10 states where legislatures are not pursuing policies that tie state funding to performance measures like graduation rates, according to a July Pew Charitable Trusts report. That trend is being driven by concerns over tight state budgets, rising tuition and a desire to improve the employment prospects of graduates, the report said. Sixteen states have policies that link dollars to performance measures. Four are in the process of implementing such measures, while 20 are considering doing so, according to the Pew report.