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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Assessment for Colleges/Universities

Assessments for colleges and universities was the topic for Danny Westneat's column in today's Times. I had read something about this in the NY Times a couple of months ago. He starts off talking about a 428-page book called "Inside the Undergraduate Experience" which describes author, Cathy Beyer's, research following 304 UW students all the way through college. (I'd like to read this book myself.) The book ends up showing how students make their way through college in many different ways.

The crux of Danny's argument is this:
"A federal commission has recommended testing for college freshmen and seniors, as a way of colleges proving their worth to the public. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education said it might start withholding financial aid unless colleges show results through measures like testing or how many grads get jobs. This is the last straw for me. Our mania for standardized testing is out of control."

So many magazines and books do assessments of colleges and universities broken down by many factors that I'm not sure the government even needs to get into this business. And I just don't know how to assess what a person gets out of a college or university experience beyond just a degree. Should the market value of a degree overshadow anything else a college or university can offer students?

Business likes this idea because somehow it would allow them to put a dollar value on a degree. The feds? Well, I guess it would create more jobs both private and public because of the work it would involve assessing every college and university in the country. Would this include on-line universities? Would one type of degree be worth more than another? Would colleges and universities get more credit for degrees that have more immediate market value (an MBA versus a degree in literature)?

I'd say let spend the time, effort and money on K-12 and get those assessments right before plunging into the deep end of post-K-12 assessments.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous waste of money, time and resources.

What would be on the test? College exams test you on what you learn, are they concerned about what you retain? So much of what you learn in college is so much more than what could be tested anyway. People go to college for different reasons - not necessary just a general education, whether it be business, or art, architecture, history or science - a transcript has your few requried types of courses, but at least mine was heavily weighted towards where my interest and professional interests layed.

There is so much I could comment on this, but I don't even know where I'd start. I'm interested in other's comments.

Anonymous said...

"The drive comes mostly from business. Rick Stephens, a Boeing executive, was on the commission that suggested testing college students. Here's why, he told The Chronicle of Higher Education: "We receive 2 million job applications each year. I want to translate where they went to school into value in the marketplace." "

It sounds to me as though the problem is that there aren't enough business people who know how to evaluate applicants appropriately. If what Rick Stephens wants is to be able to say that people from a certain college are just the ticket to fill certain sorts of positions, then he's asking the impossible, and any decent HR person ought to know that.

Even if it *could* be done, then who would want to go to a college where everyone was just exactly cut out to do the same kind of job? What happened to being well rounded?

Heck, what happened to being a well-informed person who knew the general reputations of a lot of different colleges and universities? (Which is, of course, different from saying that you know every one of their graduates is equivalent to any other.) I picture the interviewer saying something like "I see you went to Oxford, Mr. Jones, on something called a Ruh-ho, uh, Roadies Scholarship. Oh, sorry, Rhodes, that does sound familiar. Can you tell me a little bit more about that experience? Where is Oxford, exactly?"

Helen Schinske

Jet City mom said...

Im thinking about two men who are about my age, both attended different colleges ( my daughter is an 06 alum of one), both dropped out of college- one referenced his college experience in his commencement address to Stanford grads two years ago.

http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/
2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

By that I guess you are rememebering that the other dropout I am referring to is Bill Gates.


I just can't wrap my head around the idea that college is only useful if you graduate in four years and join the masses.

Anonymous said...

If large employers like Boeing find it difficult to compare graduates of different colleges then they should devise their own tests, which reflect the skills and knowledge that they find important and require their applicants to take them. If they test 2 million applicants a year, very soon they will have meaningful data on how well different colleges prepare students to work at their firm. Why should the government (us) pay for this?

Maureen