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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Spellings Commission Recommendation for Testing DOA at Penn

I guess you could say it is DBA (Dead Before Arrival), since the final Report will not be released until September. From the Daily Pennsylvanian:
Students at Penn can exhale — it does not look like standardized testing is going to make it to the University’s agenda.

Even though a report released by the Department of Education in August has generated renewed conversation about the prospect of collegiate standardized testing, University administrators say that there is no need for such testing at Penn.

The report is the result of a year’s worth of investigation by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education — a group created by U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings last fall to study “unwarranted complacency about its future,” according to the report.

The commission identified accountability as one weakness facing colleges and universities across the country, and it proposed standardized testing as a remedy.

The report states that colleges should measure student learning through existing tests such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment. Schools using the CLA — which was developed by the Council for Aid to Education, which encourages private-sector support for education — test 100 freshmen and 100 seniors each year to measure the institution’s achievement in promoting skills like critical thinking, analytic reasoning and written communication.

Still, Penn administrators say that such tests would be meaningless for institutions of the University’s caliber.

University President Amy Gutmann said that if such tests were implemented at Penn, “students would do superbly when they came in, and superbly when they left, and it would be no measure of what they learned at Penn.”

Gutmann added that most Penn students demonstrate their critical thinking and analytic reasoning on other standardized tests—graduate school entrance exams like the MCATs and the LSATs.

Nevertheless, she said that accountability in higher education is crucial and pointed to the University’s high graduation rate as a better measure of the school’s competence and performance.

Other bodies in higher education have criticized the standardized testing recommendation as well.

Tony Pals, spokesperson for the advocacy group National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said the group stands by a letter its president wrote to the commission, which criticizes the recommendation for giving “the impression that it is possible to compare one institution with all others” . . . .

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