“No Child Left Behind,” and the frequent tests mandated by that federal law, are widely seen by educators as a distraction from the real business of teaching and learning.
Now there’s talk- and it apparently is just talk, at the moment- of taking government-required standardized tests to the college level. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is spelling out nothing specific yet. There’s vague discussion about somehow measuring the effectiveness of individual colleges and universities, and presumably the tests could be linked to their public funding- in ways positive and negative.
The people who run colleges are being careful not to over-react, but they are reacting.
“I think that it is probably important that parents and students have some way to understand that when you send a student to ‘x’ institution, that a student will come out the other end knowing more than when he or she first started,” said Sandra Hurd, associate provost at SU.
“I am certainly not opposed to assessing student learning, to demonstrate that students learning is important. I am just having a really tough time understanding how a standardized test is going to do that.”
Colleges assess their own students, of course, and we’ve all heard about “grade inflation,” which in some cases gives students credit for more than they learn, know, or are capable of.
Maybe the true test of a college education is how good a career students can have after graduation, how they’re regarded by their families, their peers and their employers, and how their college experience has enriched their personal and cultural lives. Those are some of the things that really matter, and they are things no government-ordered test can measure.