Responses to 2003 Regular Interim Report Recommendations
Responses to 2003 Interim Report Recommendations
The college must continue to address general education and most particularly the final assessment of student competencies in writing, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning. A sound basis is now in place upon which a more uniform assessment system can be built. Some gains can come from minor additions to the student evaluations and the end of program evaluation especially for those programs of independent studies that constitute a culminating experience for a graduate in the mind of the faculty evaluator. Independent measures such as the GRE may be helpful data to validate the information coming from excellent surveys of students and their employers.
Providing a broad general education has always been a crucial underlying part of the college’s emphasis on interdisciplinary work, its commitment to inquiry, and its emphasis on public life. Thus, the college has taken the issue of general education very seriously in the years since the last full-scale report, and in particular, since the last interim report in 2003. The reviewers expressed concern that the lack of evidence showing students had acquired the “competencies appropriate to general education, especially, but not exclusively in mathematics” might be undermining Evergreen's liberal arts aspirations. This concern has prompted a wide range of responses ranging from better data gathering, faculty development, and advising to more attention to mathematics in our teaching.
In the conclusion of the 2003 report, the reviewer commended Evergreen's administration and faculty for “the highly intelligent approach they have taken to this difficult challenge and for crafting a response that is in consonance with the nature of the institution.” He noted “… the tension between being able to assure uniformly the achievement by all students of general education goals particularly in writing, critical thinking and quantitative reasoning even as all students are being required to take responsibility for their own education is a healthy tension which should be a continuing hallmark of the institution and its evaluations. It is at the heart of defining the institution and contributes to its health and strength.” This section provides an update on this continuing tension.
The issue of general education typically understood as distribution requirements is a particularly vexing one at Evergreen, where a central tenet of the college is student autonomy. The college’s complex response to the issues raised by the question of general education and the history and rationale for the critical central role of student autonomy in choosing and developing their educational program was developed in detail in John McCann’s report "General Education at Evergreen: The Historical Context, Current Experiments and Recommendations for Implementation" (Provost's Office, January 2002). The report details the formation of a General Education DTF, the faculty’s subsequent rejection of requirements as a vehicle for meeting general education goals, and the establishment of the “Six Expectations of an Evergreen Graduate” as a broad statement of the outcomes to which the college aspires for its students. In addition, in line with the recommendation of the NWCCU Interim Report 2003 (E. Ettlich, The Evergreen State College October 30-31, 2003), considerable effort and energy has been put into enhancing modes of assessment of both student work and the delivery of mathematics and all other disciplines at the college.
After the General Education DTF completed its work, a two-year Assessment Study Group consisting of faculty, staff, and student representatives collaboratively developed a plan to assess the implementation of the new initiatives. The first End-of-program Review instrument (EPR) was launched in 2001-02 to collect information directly from program faculty about the presence and nature of general education divisions (Art, Math/Science, Humanities, and Social Science) and a set of student outcome goals in their interdisciplinary programs. The EPR has been administered annually and has proven to be a rich source of evidence about where opportunities for general education divisional content exist across various types of programs. In response to the 1998 accreditation review, the NWCCU’s Final Report stated, “In the current catalogue, eight of the ten Core programs being offered have no mathematical component, and in non-Core programs only about 20% of the programs require Mathematics or offer Math credit.” The EPR now provides a more complete picture of what divisional areas are offered in programs because it asks faculty to speak specifically to these areas, unlike catalog descriptions and suggested credit equivalencies, which serve other purposes for different audiences. In 1998, based on catalog copy, the Commission identified 20% of Evergreen programs that included quantitative reasoning or math; EPR results for 2006-07 reveal that 58% of programs include work in this area. (EPR 2006-07 - Math Overview)
The provision of general education in the college’s curriculum varies significantly by subject area, with some areas (notably writing and critical thinking) reported nearly universally by faculty as present in the curriculum. (EPR 2001-2005 - Writing; EPR 2001-2005 - Critical Thinking; EPR 2006-07 - Writing Overview; EPR 2006-07 - Critical Thinking Overview). Other areas, such as humanities and social sciences, are reported as major or minor emphases in 75% to 80% of all programs reporting (EPR 2001-2005 - Humanities; EPR 2001-2005 - Social Sciences; EPR 2006-07 - Humanities Overview; EPR 2006-07 - Social Sciences Overview). Clearly, not all of these reports of an emphasis or a skill are equivalent, and the analyses of these reports by a faculty study team and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment point to the extraordinary array of ways in which these skills and capacities have been integrated into programs of all stripes (Quantitative Reasoning Across the Curriculum). Further, exactly what is meant by critical thinking or even writing is not consistent from one faculty team to the next, yet it seems clear that for a student to escape exposure to important content in these areas of the curriculum over a two- to four-year-period would require very deliberate avoidance on the student’s part.
Other areas of the curriculum, notably mathematics, are less consistently present in the curriculum. Yet campus-wide, between 55% and 70% of all programs reported some emphasis on math/science and 59% to 74% of all programs reported some emphasis on quantitative reasoning (QR). Of those programs that did report some QR, about half reported a major emphasis on these skills. Similarly, approximately 65% of programs that identified math/science as a program element reported a major emphasis (EPR 2001-2005 Science and Math Distribution).
In somewhat differently collected data from the faculty-revised EPR assessment instrument for the 2006-07 school year, 58% of all programs reported some math and 53% of all programs reported some science (EPR 2006-07 - Math Overview, EPR 2006-07 - Natural and Physical Sciences Overview). When programs report only a minor emphasis on math, QR, or science, this exposure can still serve to help students understand the relevance of quantitative modes of inquiry in various disciplines; even a minor emphasis provides the student with one more perspective to the problem they are studying. Programs with any emphasis level are likely exposing some students to QR who are interested in the program themes, but who might not have specifically sought out quantitative skills on their own (Evergreen New Student 2005 – Field of Study Detail First-time, First-years; Evergreen New Student Survey 2005 – Field of Study Detail Transfer Students; Evergreen New Student Survey 2005 – Skills of First-time, First-years; Evergreen New Student Survey 2005 – Skills of Transfer Students).
Mathematics and sciences are most consistently and regularly taught in the Scientific Inquiry and Environmental Studies planning units, and least regularly taught in Expressive Arts and Culture, Text and Language planning units. Conversely, art is most frequently taught in the Expressive Arts and Culture, Text and Language planning units, and least frequently taught in Scientific Inquiry, Environmental Studies, and Society, Politics, Behavior and Change planning units (EPR 2001-2005 - Art; EPR 2006-07 - Art Overview; EPR 2001-2005 - Science and Math; EPR 2006-07 - Math Overview; EPR 2006-07 - Natural and Physical Sciences Overview). Finally, it is important to note that, as we might expect, the two major areas of interdivisional teaching, first-year Core and inter-area programs, show instruction in both Arts and Math/Science.
Faculty members think critically and write well within the disciplines they teach. Further, they know and can teach some of the social, political, and ethical dimensions of the subjects they teach, and they frequently find that using historical, philosophical, or fiction texts is a good way to bring these kinds of issues into a program. Thus, a vast majority of programs include important elements of general education, especially in the areas of critical thinking, writing, humanities, and social science.
Within the arts and natural sciences there is a more sequential learning structure. Thus, arts and math/science are intensively found in their home planning units and frequently found in Core and inter-area programs where artists or scientists teach as a part of a team, but are more often minor emphases in programs taught by faculty members whose programs do not include scientists or artists.
The college has opted to hire faculty across a wide variety of fields who have significant quantitative skills and have them participate in Core and inter-area programs as the primary way of making mathematics and science broadly available. Since 1998, when this issue was first raised, the college has hired eighty-four regular full- and half-time faculty. Of these, thirty-eight are capable of and interested in using quantitative reasoning in their teaching. Six are directly teaching mathematics; twenty-one are using mathematics in support of work in Environmental Studies and Scientific Inquiry; and thirteen are supporting the use of mathematics in social sciences. Over this same period, seventeen faculty members who had and typically used quantitative skills in their teaching have resigned or retired. The significance of this set of choices in hiring has been a broader capacity to include quantitative work in environmental studies and social sciences and to more consistently bring faculty with mathematical skills into inter-area and Core programs. Unfortunately, it does not make these disciplines inescapable: the tension remains
This conclusion has led to a second major strategy for supporting general education in mathematics. That strategy is to diversify the places where mathematics shows up as a crucial element in the curriculum by strengthening the teaching of mathematics within programs with explicit attention to planning and pedagogy and through the support of the Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning (QuaSR) Center. Over the past five years, the college has worked hard to provide paid summer time for two major forms of activity that affect the provision of effective general education. First, there has been continuing growth in the number of participants in summer planning institutes that provide time and support for program planning. By expanding planning time and directing faculty to consider issues such as advising, mathematics, writing, and other general education initiatives in their program planning efforts, by providing learning and pedagogical support for Core programs, and by actively encouraging new faculty members to participate fully in program planning work, faculty are encouraged and supported in building quantitative reasoning and advising alongside reading and writing competencies into their programs. Particularly significant has been the inclusion of staff from Student Affairs, especially advising staff, who have helped develop more awareness of advising to help students meet the six expectations.
In addition, each summer one to three institutes focusing on specific-issues math pedagogy, the organization of Scientific Inquiry curriculum, the interdisciplinary teaching of mathematics, and quantitative reasoning have expanded the capacity of faculty to develop coherent long range support for the teaching of mathematics at the college. Institutes in particular areas such as sustainability, biology and mathematics, social justice and mathematics, computer modeling and social sciences, and others have helped connect quantitative reasoning into a wider range of program offerings. They have also helped make clear the need and importance of the mathematics pathway offered through Scientific Inquiry for students who intend to follow the pathway and those who use it to support other academic work. Vauhn Foster-Grahler, who assumed responsibility for the QuaSR Center in 2003, has been instrumental in convening summer work for faculty who teach mathematics in all areas of the college, both within full-time programs and in Evening and Weekend Studies. These institutes and work within the Scientific Inquiry area in developing a more regular and systematic mathematics track, combined with the work of the QuaSR Center and expanded course offerings through Evening and Weekend Studies, has significantly strengthened the teaching of mathematics and its availability to students over the past five years. The growth in the importance of these services is seen by the growth in the number of drop-in visits, from just under a thousand visits in 2003-04 to nearly three thousand in the 2006-07 school year.
The number of programs with assigned tutors has also increased. Furthermore, the number of credits awarded in courses taught by and through the QuaSR Center has grown from 8.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) students in 2003-04 to 9.0 FTE students in 2006-07. The FTEs generated in the center’s pre-calculus courses have grown from 2.5 in 2003-04 to 5.8 in 2006-07. The growth in pre-calculus has offset the loss of FTEs from the decision to discontinue self-paced math after 2003-04. The student success rate of these courses has improved dramatically. When the program was based on self-paced learning, only 42% of students earned any credit; now a course-based format has over 90% of students routinely receiving credit [[[Media: Quantitative_Reasoning_Center_Statistics.doc|Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning Center (QuaSR) Statistics 2003-2007]]].
Several innovations have helped support better and more widely available mathematics teaching at the college, including:
- implementing emerging scholarship on innovative approaches to math education,
- assigning specific tutors to programs to help teach mathematics in programs and provide support for students outside of class,
- increasing the number of subjects supported by tutoring, and
- consulting between the director and programs as they strive to provide support for mathematics in programs.
In academic year 2000-01, the General Education DTF completed its work and the faculty adopted a set of resolutions, including the Six Expectations of an Evergreen Graduate. In that baseline year, 215 seats were dedicated to in math and science courses offered primarily through Evening and Weekend Studies. Two-credit and four-credit courses provide students with another opportunity to achieve breadth and depth of study outside of programs. General education implementation began in 2001-02, as well as another policy change that allowed students to enroll in up to twenty credits per quarter. Up until fall 2001, the credit limit was sixteen credits. This policy permitted motivated students to enroll in courses while simultaneously enrolled in a full-time, sixteen-credit program. By 2002-03, two years into general education implementation (once student enrollment in more than sixteen credits had somewhat stabilized), there were 283 enrolled seats in math and science courses. That number has continued to increase as new math and science courses have been added. In 2006-07, there were 338 students enrolled in math and science courses. In annual average FTE terms, this is a climb from 58 FTEs in 2000-01 to 85 FTEs by 2006-07 (Courses by General Education Divisions).
Finally, while Evergreen continues to work to make mathematics widely available, the college must do so in light of the fact that the lack of requirements specifically attracts students who actively seek to avoid mathematics instruction. Significant differences in SAT scores for entering students between their math and verbal scores, interview data from incoming students, and the results of math-readiness scores for incoming freshmen make clear that some students come here to avoid mathematics. Evidence from incoming freshmen SAT scores illustrate the relative dominance of verbal performance over math performance in students who select Evergreen. The 25th and 75th percentiles for verbal SAT scores of the entering freshman class of 2006 was 520/650 compared to 470/590 in math (First-Time, First-Year Trends). This gap between verbal and math SAT scores appears to distinguish Evergreen students from those at other public baccalaureate institutions in Washington (SAT Peer Comparisons November 2006).
While more than 80% of entering Evergreen first-year students had completed at least two years of high school algebra and geometry, and more than half had gone at least a year beyond this, they still rated “understanding and applying quantitative principles and methods” as their weakest ability among twenty-two skill areas (Evergreen New Student Survey 2005 – Prior Math; Evergreen New Student Survey 2005 – Skills of First-time, First-years). Furthermore, 41% of new transfer students and 48% of new students to the Tacoma program reported they had “no skill” or “low skill” in understanding and applying quantitative principles and methods (Evergreen New Student Survey 2005 – Skills of Transfer Students; Evergreen New Student Survey 2005 - Skills - Tacoma). This reality means that the near-term goal of our general education efforts in mathematics needs to focus on making mathematics available to those who need it and want it, including those students who come to recognize through their work at Evergreen the serious deficiencies in their math backgrounds. The work of the QuaSR Center is a major step in the right direction, but more work needs to be done.
Student experience overall with respect to the Six Expectations of an Evergreen Graduate and in particular with respect to experience with quantitative reasoning and mathematics shows some improvement since the five-year review period. The Evergreen Student Experience Survey reveals that 75% of undergraduates at the Olympia campus, 84% at Tribal: Reservation Based Community Determined programs, and 94% at the Tacoma program are satisfied with Evergreen’s support for their development in quantitative reasoning (Evergreen Student Experience Survey 2006 - Learning Growth for Olympia Campus Students; Evergreen Student Experience Survey 2006 - Learning - Tribal Programs; Evergreen Student Experience Survey 2006 - Learning - Tacoma). Such basic indicators as the summary data from the Credit Equivalencies section of the 2002-05 Transcript Review Data show progress in broad terms. Assessment of a random sample of undergraduate transcripts found that evidence of breadth of learning increased 5% and evidence of ability to appropriately apply quantitative modes of inquiry improved 7% for the class of 2004 compared to the class of 2001 (General Education Learning Indicators). Significantly, the proportion of transcripts with no credit in mathematics/quantitative reasoning fell from 35% to 18%. Similarly, there is more positive growth in the mean scores of students responding to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) question identifying “Educational and Personal Growth in Analyzing Quantitative Problems”: From 2.19 in 2000-01 to 2.57 in 2006-07 for first-years and 2.68 to 2.88 for seniors over the same period. Another way of looking at this data suggests that when compared with the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) peer base, Evergreen first-years lagged significantly (p <.01) behind their counterparts at other institutions, but in the last two years, Evergreen students were not significantly different from their peers.
In both 1999 and 2003 we surveyed Evergreen graduates and their employers. When asked about their competence with math skills and numeracy, alumni from both years rated themselves with a mean score of 2.71 on a 4-point scale, with 4 being excellent. This is the only reported mean to fall below 3. Employers responding to the same question rated these graduates with a mean score of 3.25 in 1999 and 3.38 in 2003, scores well within the general range reported by employers. This suggests that at least some students have talked themselves into an assumed deficiency (Greeners at Work 2003 - Alumni and Employers Three Years After Graduation; Greeners at Work 1999 - Alumni, Greeners at Work 1999 - Employers).
Finally, results from Evergreen graduates who have taken the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) show that they consistently score higher than the mean on the verbal and analytic writing sections of the test and at or slightly lower than the mean on the quantitative section (GRE Results Summary 2002-2006). On the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), Evergreen alumni have looked very similar to the national averages both in terms of scores and acceptance rates (LSAT Scores 2001-2006). This data show that Evergreen has made some important progress in mathematics and quantitative reasoning and, indeed, in general education across the board.
Standard 2 will show that the college has been doing a good job of helping its students find ways to meet the general goals of an Evergreen education while maintaining the central values of student autonomy and choice.
The college remains in much the same financial condition in which the visitors found it in 1998. In the five years since 1998, the college identified a number of causes and has developed a range of plans to address them from bringing the auxiliary budgets into balance to the continued enhancement of private support with initial implementation producing praiseworthy results. In the next five years, the college needs to develop and implement a comprehensive financial plan that reconciles its mission, goals and programs with the available resources of the institution.
The 1998 NWCCU committee report identified several auxiliaries (Housing, Food Services, the Bookstore, and Conferences) as having a combined loss of $230,000 in 1998. In 2007, this same group of auxiliaries had a net profit of $818,000 (see Exhibit 7-25: Ten-Year Income History of Auxiliary Enterprises). Duplicating Services and Parking, both internal service funds, have had recent rate increases that improve their financial viability. The College Activities Building is slated for a major renovation in 2009, which should have a significant positive impact on Dining Services and the Bookstore. The college is not using operating funds to provide financial support to any auxiliary operation.
Extended Education was started in 2005 in an effort to provide new financial support to the academic operations. This program will be reviewed in fall 2008.
The college continues to rely on state funding and tuition as the major sources of operating funds. State operating support has increased by 19% per student FTE since 2003, and as a percent of total operating revenue has remained at a range of 36% to 39% from 2003 to 2007.
The college does not rely on revenue from auxiliary services to support general operations. Most of our auxiliaries (Housing, Dining, the Bookstore, and Parking) rely on revenue from students or campus units supported by operating revenues. Increasing the revenues to these auxiliary enterprises would increase students' cost of attendance or have a negative impact on departmental operating expenditures.
An internal auditor was hired in December 2005 and reports directly to the president. She has recommended several improvements in areas such as cash handling and internal controls of fixed assets, which have been implemented. She will continue to perform audits on the entire financial operations and make recommendations.
The college purchased and implemented a major administrative software system from SCT Banner. The student system has been in place since 2001 and the finance module since 2005. This is a comprehensive administrative program designed for higher education and is used by hundreds of colleges and universities. We are in the process of searching for a new human resource-payroll system and a budgeting system. These systems will be expensive and time consuming to implement, but are necessary for a comprehensive administrative system.
Fundraising has increased significantly over the past ten years. Overall giving has increased 141% during this period and net assets have grown from $1,673,000 in 1997 to $7,847,027 in 2007. A new vice president for Advancement was hired in 2006 and several vacant and new positions in Advancement were recently filled.
The college’s future financial plans directly support the mission and academic programs.
The college must address specifically the pervasive salary problem across exempt, faculty, and certain categories of classified positions in order to help assure the continuing viability and quality of its programs. Progress needs to be made toward a fair and competitive salary schedule for exempt, faculty, and classified positions (2003 Interim Report).
The college's efforts to improve faculty and staff salaries were significantly delayed by a general downturn in state revenues following the events of September 11, 2001. The state legislature acted to rescind the 2% cost-of-living increases that had been scheduled for fiscal year 2003, and for three consecutive years, the college did not receive legislative funding for cost-of-living increases. During this period of statewide budget retrenchment, the college increased tuition in order to offset decreases in state support. Higher tuition in turn made the college less attractive to students paying non-resident tuition. Taken together, these circumstances severely limited the college's ability to self-fund salary increases. Conditions began to improve in 2005, when the state resumed funding cost-of-living increases for all state employees. Since the 2003 Interim Report, salary increases were funded as follows:
Fiscal Year 2002 3.7%
Fiscal Year 2003 0.0%
Fiscal Year 2004 0.0%
Fiscal Year 2005 0.0%
Fiscal Year 2006 3.2%
Fiscal Year 2007 1.6%
These modest cost of living increases illustrate the financial conditions in which the college has worked to improve salaries in recent years. Compensation details for the college’s three employment groups follow.
The funding philosophy for faculty compensation is the same as reported in the 2003 Interim Report (no rank, no distinctions between disciplines, one experience-based pay scale that provides larger step increases to younger faculty members through mid-career). The college continues to award annual salary adjustments to faculty associated with step increases. Funding for these increases is internal and generated from faculty turnover savings. Annual step increases range from 4.6% for our youngest faculty to .33% for our most senior faculty. (The median faculty step increase for fiscal year 2008 is 1.28% for the continuing faculty deployed to teaching.) Though modest, these annual, self-funded salary adjustments provide a tangible adjustment for all faculty members, which is particularly important during periods when state-funded cost of living increases are not provided Faculty Salary Grid for 2007-2008.
While faculty step increases have helped keep pace with the cost of living, the financial constraints described above have prevented the college from making progress in faculty salaries relative to peer institutions. Since the 2003 Interim Report, the college has noted a modest decline in the competitiveness of faculty salaries as measured against Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) benchmarks (see chart below).
Average Evergreen Faculty Salaries Compared to Peer Institutions
|Year||TESC Average Salary||Peer Average (IPEDS)||% Behind Peer Average||% Behind Peer 75th percentile|
Recognizing the continued importance of improving the competitiveness of salaries for both faculty and exempt professional staff, the college reserved a portion of the 2007-09 tuition increase to address this and other strategic priorities. Nevertheless, the college does not yet know what future salary adjustments for faculty may look like. Collective bargaining with the United Faculty of Evergreen (currently underway) will determine any changes in faculty salaries for Fiscal Year 2008 and the future. Bargaining with the faculty union may identify other economic issues that in addition to salaries need to be addressed. Furthermore, the college's emerging framework for exempt professional staff compensation (discussed below) will require funding, and other non-funded strategic initiatives and unfunded inflationary costs (e.g., utilities) are anticipated over this same period.
Exempt Professional Staff
For exempt staff, the cost-of-living increases described above have not been adequate to make up for past salary stagnation.
In 2006, the vice presidents jointly charged an Exempt Staff DTF. Among the DTF's tasks was making recommendations for exempt compensation policy that could be used to systematically evaluate exempt staff salaries on an ongoing basis. The DTF made its final recommendations in the summer of 2007 (DRAFT Exempt Professional Staff Compensation Framework). Work on the compensation system that follows from the DTF's recommendations is ongoing. The college's Human Resources staff has collected market survey data from a variety of relevant sources: the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), the Economic Research Institute, the Milliman Northwest survey, and state of Washington employment agency. From among these sources, appropriate benchmarks will be selected for each position. As of this writing (February 2008), market benchmarks have been identified for 145 of the 181 exempt staff positions. A very preliminary estimate suggests that an annual investment of approximately $620,000 may be required to bring all the exempt positions up to the 50th percentile. An additional $250,000 might be required to address salary compression and inversion issues that emerge when classified staff salaries increase more rapidly than the salaries of exempt-staff supervisors. Given the scale of this investment and other competing demands on Evergreen's strategic reserves (discussed above), the college will need to pursue a strategy over more than a single funding biennium to achieve its goals for exempt staff compensation.
These general increases tell only part of the story for classified staff compensation. In 2005, state law changed to allow collective bargaining for wages and benefits. Since the change in law, Evergreen and its classified staff union have bargained through a process managed by the Washington State Labor Relations Office as part of a coalition involving many of the state's two-year colleges. In addition to the general cost-of-living increases noted above, this process yielded additional salary enhancements for classified staff based on market surveys for selected job classifications (e.g., the information technology classifications). An additional pay step was also added to the classified salary grid, further raising the maximum salaries for the most senior classified employees. These changes have a cumulative effect for many employees. The average increase in our classified employee salary base was more than 7.2% in the current biennium.
 NWCCU, The Evergreen State College: Full Scale Evaluation, October 1998  The data in this paragraph is derived from a comparison of faculty hired with those retired from 1998 to 2007. It takes into account both discipline and emphasis on quantitative data in teaching.