Phi Beta Cons

Testing Bad

Here’s a hit job on Margaret Spellings and the higher ed commission, focusing mostly on its demand for accountability. To the author, the demand only amounts to one thing: more standardized tests, and more cash for standardized test businesses.
Here’s the reasoning:

Although the commission didn’t recommend standardized testing per se, they clearly set the stage for it. According to Spellings, “No current ranking system of colleges and universities directly measures the most critical point—student performance and learning … and that’s unacceptable. Information will … hold schools accountable for quality.” Terms like performance, accountability and quality are code words for standardized testing.
Mandatory testing of college seniors will have a profound effect on higher education. Colleges with low scores on standardized tests—often heavily minority—could be punished by reduced state funding. Federal research dollars might also be linked to student test scores. Outcomes might determine whether some colleges are even denied federal student loan funds.

The article says nothing about whether the tests will push colleges to improve their curricula, except to say that departments will start to “teach to the test” and downgrade offerings that are “diverse and interesting.”
This is just the kind of blunt and obtuse attitude that forced the appointment of the commission in the first place. When are academics going to realize that there is a problem inside the campus–here, the poor knowledge and skill levels of graduates–and if they don’t take the initiative in addressing it, then somebody else will?