Friday, August 11, 2006

The Future of Higher Education

"No Child Left Behind", just graduated to the college level. The report by the Spelling's Commission on the Future of Higher Education is out. From the San Francisco Chronicle,

A federal commission approved a final report on Thursday that urges a broad shakeup of American higher education, calling for public universities to measure student learning with standardized tests, for federal monitoring of colleges' quality, and for sweeping changes to the financial aid system....

A proposal on standardized tests was also weakened at the last moment. Previous drafts said "states should require" public universities to use standardized tests, but the final version said simply that universities "should measure student learning" using standardized tests.

Spellings will now review the report and issue a set of actions based on the commission's recommendations. (You can read the report here. (PDF)

The commission was charged with examining access, affordability, and accountability in higher education. All in an effort to make sure that students are adequately prepared to compete in the "global economy".

One aspect of the report that was "chilling" according to some was a "recommendation to develop a national database to follow individual students' progress as a way of holding colleges accountable for students' success. "

To me, any time the federal government talks about accountability for their "investements" and tracking student progress in a database, it's chilling. Make no mistake about it, this is a move toward national standards and outcomes in education from preschool to college. They may not get everything they want this time around, but incrementally they'll achieve their goal. Once the federal government decides there's a crisis, they won't stop until they "fix" it.

Here are some selected quotes from the report (the headings are mine),

Who is responsible for success?
From page 2:
Among the high school graduates who do make it on to post secondary education, a troubling number waste time - and taxpayer dollars - mastering English and math skills that they should have learned in high school. And some never complete their degrees at all, at least in part because most colleges and universities don't accept responsibility for making sure that those they admit actually succeed.
Who defines success? And how do you measure it? Is Bill Gates a failure because he never graduated? How about my mom?

Student tracking and "seamless pathway"
From page 6:
We propose to dramatically expand college participation and success by outlining ways in which post secondary institutions, K-12 school systems, and state policy makers can work together to create a seamless pathway, beween high school and college. States K-12 graduation standards must be closely aligned with college and employer expectations,
This is where homeschoolers who are not "tracked" could potentially encounter problems. High school "exit exams" which my state of Michigan now requires for graduation are part of that "seamless pathway".

Previous posts
The New "C" in NCLB
College Exit Exams
A Move Toward National Standards

Around The Web
Inside Higher Ed has quite a few links and opinions from around the web on the Commission.
Commission Website

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