Wednesday, February 22, 2006

sog #1

We must quantify, quantify, quantify... A recent New York Times article (link at bottom) titled "Panel Explores Standardized Testing For Colleges" describes an attempt to standardize elements of college education. The Bush administration has appointed a panel to the examine possible assessments of writing, analytical skills and critical thinking for undergraduate college students.

Not all of the commisioners are named in the article, but the ones who are have me worried. Jonathan Grayer, one comissioner, is the chief executive of Kaplan Inc., a company that offers test preparation services. Hmmm... what interest could the CEO of a company that trains students to take standardized tests have in implementing standardized tests in colleges across the nation? I'm sure his opinion on the comission is very neutral.

But wait... these tests would be for assesment purposes only, right? Then the question becomes how to motivate students to actually perform well on the test. A "testing expert" at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in Colorado was quoted in the article as saying such tests need to be "embedded in the curriculum" for students to take them seriously.

Ahh... so if we connect the dots, the CEO of Kaplan is serving on a committee that will make recommendations about whether or not to apply standardized tests to assess the knowledge gained in college. These standardized tests need to be part of the curriculum for students to taken them seriously (I certainly wouldn't take them seriously otherwise). The next logical step is to make students grades somehow dependent on these tests. Maybe just for extra credit at first. But then later, as colleges are forced to compete with one another about the score results, suddenly the tests loom large over the undergraduate curriculum. That's when Kaplan steps in and offers up their services for students who are stressed out (yet again) over the prospect of filling in tiny bubbles in order to assess their knowledge.