Saturday, February 11, 2006

Testing Taken Too Far

A Bush administration panel is talking about standardized tests for college. Frankly, the testing movement has gone way too far already.

There are any number of flaws with trying to create a standardized test for college. As my roommate points out, college students learn wildly different subjects through their four years, so creating a test that authentically assesses how much students learn at one college or another would be virtually impossible. I'm not even sure the ways students show what they know in college are testable. Most end-of-course assessments are either lengthy papers or tests that include long essays. Essay tests are already unweildy for professors and TAs in classes of 100 or 200 students -- try that with a million college students a year.

And let's not forget that what needs accountability in higher education is cost, not quality. American universities are the best in the world. We have more of them, and more high-quality ones, than any country in the world, no matter how much Asia is supposedly catching up. College administrators do need to be held accountable for what our $160,000 goes to every year (on top of millions of fundraising dollars), and tests are obviously not the way to get that sort of information.


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