Friday, January 20, 2006

Leave testing plan behind --

They are at it again. Even though more and more people and groups are coming out against NCLB every day, the "Privatize everything we don't want to pay any taxes (except to spend %50 more on the military than the rest of the world combined,) group wants to test at the university level as well. Now they have come out with the first study to back up their arguments. I read about it in my home town newspaper this morning then saw this great comment from Jim over at Schools Matter:
AIR, (
American Institutes for Research) which has profited mightily from federal research and Reading First oversight grants under the present regime, continues to prostitute itself by spinning its own research to pretend that it says something that it does not say. The current effort, which goes nicely with the recent one that tries to justify the use of chain-gang pedagogy in K-12 (see previous post here), represents a sustained attempt to the prime the pump for the anticipated gush of support for federal meddling in higher education by corporationist interlopers—which, in the end, is aimed at privatizing universities so that they become wholly the campus laboratories for corporate research and development. After all, the Chinese do it—except that their dictatorship is on a government payroll rather than a corporate one. Whatever—the world is flat, remember?!
Be sure to read on to see how this news article is spun.

Anyway, the editorial that titles this post, from the Daily Iowan, makes a good case against testing at the university level:

Last month, the National Department of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education suggested it was likely to propose standardized testing for college students. Chairman Charles Miller said the commission might recommend that the test scores be linked to whether a school qualifies for federal accreditation or student financial aid. This is part of the Bush administration's push for more accountability in education and to keep the U.S. education system competitive with the rest of the world.
The goal of this program would clearly be similar to that of the No Child Left Behind Act - to promote achievement through competition for funds and benefits. But, unlike elementary and secondary schools, this sort of competition already exists at universities as they vie to recruit top students and faculty, secure research grants and financial aid, and increase diversity. Plus, universities have plenty of incentive to offer a challenging and relevant curriculum - successful alumni ensure the schools' futures. And, many universities routinely undergo an accreditation process to hold them accountable for their education strategies.

Worse, implementing standardized tests could threaten to make a college education less accessible to U.S. students. As we watch our tuition continue to rise, it is evident that many universities are already short on funding. In an effort to ensure that they receive federal aid, many schools might be tempted to increase admissions standards, only admitting students they know will score well in testing.

The best way to hold universities accountable for the quality of their education is to encourage transparency among schools, so state governments need not rely on regulation to measure student achievement. But it is essential that policymakers take into account the vast diversity that exists: Different universities attract different students, and they vary so much in terms of philosophy that it would be impossible to hold them to a single educational standard.
In any case, the Department of Education must be careful not to focus solely on the issue of accountability. Just as much effort should be put into making college accessible to all motivated students and supporting innovation in science and technology. Universities should be encouraged to strive for advancement in specialized fields instead of being forced to adhere to uniform standards. A postsecondary version of No Child Left Behind is not the way to maintain the American university system's reputation as the best in the world.

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