Endowments: Champion for Change

December 18, 2014


Improving assessment in schools

College of Education alumnus Rick Stiggins created an endowment at Michigan State University five years ago because he believes it is the only institution that can achieve his vision: to improve how U.S. teachers are trained to use assessment in their schools.

As the endowment grows, he expects the funds will help MSU and other teacher education faculties develop high-quality preservice preparation in assessment for teachers and school administrators—and eventually make the university a go-to center for research on effective classroom assessment training.

Stiggins, a former leader at ACT and founder of the Assessment Training Institute, was the headline speaker at a conference on school accountability issues hosted by the university last spring. He also has pledged to donate all royalties from a recent book he authored, “Productive Classroom Assessment in College Courses,” directly to his endowment.

Now Stiggins has added to his endowment, bringing it to a level that will fund a named professor, a renowned expert on assessment who can champion the efforts underway at MSU and take them to the next level. Stiggins, Ph.D. ’72 (Educational Psychology), said he and his wife, Nancy Bridgeford, were especially compelled to create a faculty chair as a key priority of the university’s new Empower Extraordinary campaign.

“It’s time to make another move on what’s been a long-term priority for us,” he said. “An endowed chair will have considerable resources to use to generate more resources—that’s the whole idea.”

When the deferred gift is realized, the College of Education can begin a national search to recruit the faculty member who will hold the chair.

But Stiggins isn’t stopping there. He recently added a $150,000 gift to his endowment, bringing its value to $500,000. He hopes to speed up progress toward the ultimate goal—$2 million—by collaborating with the university to seek contributions from prospective donors across the nation.

He is driven by his gratitude—“I owe everything I have achieved to the training I started with at MSU”—and by his passion for change.

The problems with assessment in American schools are growing. We are in an era that continues to emphasize high-stakes testing while the vast majority of teachers and school leaders are left to do their jobs without the assessment literacy needed to do them well. That has to end, he says.

“It’s going to take a big battleship to confront the issue,” Stiggins said. “And that ship is MSU.”