Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Harvey Smith
Harvey Smith


IIRC director: P-20 center’s coordination
can yield ‘continuous learning process’

August 10, 2009

Harvey Smith, director of NIU’s Interactive Illinois Report Card, is hopeful that the center’s coordination of P-20 activities will help high schools, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities “begin to think about teaching and learning as a more synchronized, continuous learning process.”

Academic development of students as individuals is currently “hampered” because assessment and learning measurement is not continuous, Smith said. Measurements of performance of elementary school students “do not really align” with measurements of their performance when high school students, he said.

“Then, after high school, that information totally falls off the cliff because there’s no systematic, easy linking of information about high school learning performance and preparedness for college,” Smith said. “We’re just flying too much in the dark on that.”

Why? “There is as yet no statewide database that carries forward all of the information regarding their performance data into the college arena,” he said.

As a result, colleges have comparatively little detailed understanding of a student’s individual skills and needs.

“The really exciting benefit of a P-20 perspective is that the state is now moving to provide a continuous stream of information that will allow educators at all levels to improve teaching and learning,” Smith said. “We have begun to think together to address strategies that work across the spectrum.”

NIU’s P-20 center is a big step in the right direction in which higher education will play a bigger role in coordinating the entire process, Smith said. “As the final destination in many students’ educational careers, universities are uniquely situated to be institutional leaders in this vital mission.”