Phi Beta Cons

Graduation Tests

Here are two stories on measuring learning in college. One, from the Houston Chronicle, is by Charles Miller and Kevin Carey, and it opens:

It’s an article of faith that free markets have given America the greatest higher education system in the world. Unlike K-12 schools, colleges and universities have to compete for students and resources. As a result, the thinking goes, we’re blessed with vibrant institutions that operate relatively free of government control and provide a crucial advantage in the global contest for economic supremacy.
Unfortunately, this is wrong on all counts. When it comes to their most important mission — helping students learn— American colleges and universities are badly underperforming and overpriced. That’s because they don’t operate in anything like a true free market. And the solution to this problem isn’t less government involvement, but a stronger role of a different kind.

The other one comes from the Baltimore Sun and it predicts that an education group representing 200 colleges will vote “yes” on having member colleges test students at the end of their career. Here is one objection:

“How do you measure citizenship?” said Goucher College President Sanford J. Ungar, who called the initiative “a very unfortunate” development. “How do you measure values? How do you measure inspiring a spirit of lifelong learning?”

The fuzziness of that statement is solid evidence for why some kind of measurement of student learning is so needed.

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