"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 10, 2005

Testing Coming to a College Near You?

Want to get away from those pesky and undependable college rating scales? If so, Spellings' new commission on higher ed just might have a testing system in the wings for you. Scheduled to meet for the first time next week, here is part of a preview article from the Chronicle:

Accent on Accountability

So far, the secretary has defined the commission's task in the broadest of terms, saying that it will tackle such global issues as access, affordability, accountability, and productivity. In a one-page letter to its members, she also spoke of the need to ensure that higher education keeps pace with the changing economy.

A Federal Register notice on the commission provided a few more details, saying the panel would examine how colleges can serve minority students better, promote lifelong learning, produce more mathematics and science majors, and prepare students for the global economy. The commission, the notice said, would "analyze whether the current goals of higher education are appropriate and achievable."

Richard K. Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University and a panel member, says it looks like the commission "has a good bit of latitude."

Still, if the chairman's past work is any indication, a major focus of the panel will be accountability. Mr. Miller has been promoting that concept since the late 1980s, when he chaired a Texas task force that developed a state accountability program that became a model for the No Child Left Behind Act.

As a member and later chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1994 to 2004, he proposed new reporting requirements for the nine undergraduate colleges in the system and endorsed testing for all freshmen and seniors. The reporting system went statewide last year, and a test of students' analytical and verbal skills is now in the pilot stage.

And when he testified before Congress in 2003, Mr. Miller suggested that colleges test students in their first two years "to measure student learning at the undergraduate level across institutions."

"I don't have a middle name, but if I did, it would probably be accountability," Mr. Miller says.

The chairman insists he is not out to regulate colleges, but only to hold them accountable to taxpayers. He says policy makers and parents alike need better information about how colleges are performing. "I believe in giving institutions the maximum freedom to operate themselves," he says, "but we do want to see what the results are."

Still, Mr. Miller's emphasis on accountability alarms some academics, who fear that he will try to expand President Bush's signature education law to apply to colleges. "I just hope this doesn't result in No College Student Left Behind," says Michael A. Olivas, director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston.

Are they kidding? Do they really think this will float? No, they are not kidding, and yes, they believe that the university should be the servant of big business.

1 comment:

  1. The sick, tragic irony in this continous drumbeat on "accountability" for educators and students is that by shifting the focus and attention to schools and blaming them for the ills of society, no one in Washington is held accountable for anything. Doesn't Spellings and her henchmen, along with Congress, have anything better to do like figuring out how to rebuild the schools in Louisiana if they are so damn worried and concerned about education?

    Isn't it time to hold this government and their corporate pimps accountabile for the FIASCO in Iraq, violating the Geneva Convention (as Bush gets his veto pen ready to condone torture once again). Who's accountable for the pathetic healthcare system that's bankrupting the country and leaving people to die? Who's accountable for the destruction of the environment, the crumbling infrastructure of major cities, a disasterous energy policy, increasing poverty, the lack of a living minimum wage, a homeland security dept. and FEMA that are a laughing stock. Let's not forget the brilliant economic policy centered on tax cuts for the rich and trickle down economics. It goes on and on and on..

    There are no words to describe how utterly absurd and at the same time, horrifying, this conversation about education and the emphasis on more testing has become. The smoke and mirrors, the outright lies, hubris and enormous incompetence that characterizes this administration and now plagues the entire country, just keeps getting worse. We can only hope and pray that someone, somewhere on Capitol Hill comes to their senses soon or that the American people wake up from their mindless stupor. But I won't bet on it.

    All that testing that's supposed to create well-educated citiznes able to compete in a global economy obviously hasn't worked. Too many people can't even tell the difference between good and evil or right and wrong but they sure know how to fill in the bubbles.

    The acquiescence of those who continue to remain silent about what is going on is unforgivable.

    As Martin Luther King said, "We will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."