Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




John R. Thelin


The purpose of this study was to review the historical origins and chronology of the student assessment movement in the United States and to describe and analyze the development of Virginia's higher education student assessment policy within that movement. "Student assessment," the process of determining whether or not students have met educational goals set by their programs of study, institutions of higher education, or the state is a relatively new event in Virginia. Major participants involved in the passage and implementation of Virginia's policy were identified from historical documents and interviewed based on their specific areas of knowledge.;From the interviews and document analysis it was found that the historical origins for Virginia's student assessment policy were synonymous with the history of accrediting agencies. A second possible origin for student assessment was the response to periods of expansion and curriculum development that occurred from 1918-1928 and again from 1952-1983.;The recent push for student assessment was spurred in the mid-1980's by the release of several national studies on the condition of the curriculum, instruction, and student achievement in higher education in the United States. These reports caused the states to question the credibility of regional accrediting agencies as a means of ensuring educational quality. as a result, at least two-thirds of the states have instituted some form of student assessment legislation since 1984.;The state of Virginia's student assessment policy began in 1985 with the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 125 which called on the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to investigate means by which student achievement could be measured to assure the citizens of Virginia of the continuing high quality of higher education in the state. The study was conducted and presented to the 1986 General Assembly of Virginia as Senate Document No. 14 and was accepted in Senate Joint Resolution 83. This resolution requested the state-supported institutions of higher education to establish student assessment programs in consultation with SCHEV. In 1989, Senate Bill 534 amended The Code of Virginia giving SCHEV formal authority to oversee student assessment activities.;After completing the case study, the study was compared for fit with six models of policy formulation (elite, rational, incremental, group, systems, and institutional) as proposed by Thomas Dye in his 1972 book, Understanding Public Policy. It was found that the systems model was the best fit of the six models. However, since vestiges of the other models existed within Virginia's student assessment policy formulation process the study proposed a revised systems model that included each of Dye's six models.



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