Early in this century American higher education has experienced increased demands for accountability from citizens and government fueled in part by political distrust. Accountability mandates have been issued due to consumer concerns about the increasing price tag of higher education and by a broader, national inclination to demand from educational institutions an empirical accounting of their functions. In primary and secondary education, this trend is exemplifi ed by the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), a federal provision that requires states to create a system of K-12 teaching and learning assessments. In American higher education, an institutionally diverse and reasonably autonomous system, these calls for accountability have come from state governments, foundations, and the general public. Accountability initiatives focused on undergraduate teaching and learning include the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Boyer Commission’s “Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities,” the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education’s “2010 Measuring Up: State by State Report,” the Pew Charitable Trust’s “National Survey of Student Engagement,” and “value-added” regional accreditation criteria and assessment measures enacted by state governments. Despite its lack of direct oversight and authority over higher education, the federal government and recent presidential administrations have also made attempts to put forward accountability directives. For example,

George W. Bush’s administration assembled its Spellings Commission convened to directly address accountability in higher education. The Commission was charged with developing a national plan to improve higher education, a strategy that would include standards for teaching and accountability systems for instructional quality. The commission issued its report noting that there is “a remarkable lack and absence of accountability mechanisms to ensure that colleges succeed in educating students” ( Spellings Commission : A Test of Leadership Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education, 2006 , p. vii), inferring that American colleges and universities do not monitor their own functions and professional commitments. A passing view of accountability mandates in the states would suggest otherwise, however.