more rumblings about testing in higher ed

The NY Times has an article today about the DOE Higher Ed commission’s ongoing "investigation" – push, more like it – to implement standardized testing in colleges and universities (and yes, this may very well include private institutions as well, if the accrediation process is used as a "lever").  The CEO of Kaplan thinks it’s a good idea, so it must be, right?  (I’m assuming that you’ve all caught the sarcasm in that last statement.)

What is up with this nation’s obsession for quantification?  i.e., from the article: "The unanswered question in higher education is: How good is the
product?" said Robert Zemsky, a commission member who is a professor of
education at the University of Pennsylvania. "A growing number of
people are beginning to want answers. What higher education is about to
learn is that they can’t play the ‘trust me’ game anymore." 

To that, I say, take a look at Patricia Gumport‘s article, Academic restructuring: Organizational change and institutional imperatives.  Sounds dry, but here’s the main thrust (from the article abstract): "…the author diagnoses a macro-trend whereby the dominant legitimating idea of public higher education has changed from higher education as a social institution to higher education as an industry. …Wholesale adaptation to market pressures and managerial rationales could thereby subsume the discourse about the future of colleges and universities within a logic of economic rationality at a detriment to the longer-term educational legacies and democratic interests that have long characterized American public education."

Maybe I’m just having a knee-jerk reaction based on my dislike of the current administration and of their other standardized testing initiatives, but when you have folks like Kaplan sitting on these committees, and statements like the one from Prof. Zemsky, I can’t help but wonder if the discourse about the future of colleges and universities hasn’t already been subsumed.

————
Gumport, P. J. (2000). Academic restructuring: Organizational change and institutional imperatives. Higher Education 39: 67-91.

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