Those who thought they'd kissed SATs, Proficiency Exams, and other standardized tests goodbye with the end of high school could be sorely mistaken.
According to various news outlets, Charles Miller, chairman of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, is considering the use of standardized tests to measure the progress of college students. In other words, undergraduates could soon be sharpening their pencils for a national proficiency exam.
The commission, which was created in 2005 by Margaret Spellings, the U.S. Secretary of Education, is charged with "developing a comprehensive national strategy for post-secondary education." According to Samra Yudof, the commission's press secretary, members will not make any formal recommendations before they submit their final report, due on Aug. 1.
"Most people don't realize that federal dollars make up about one-third of our nation's total annual investment in higher education," Spellings said at her announcement of the commission, calling for increased federal involvement in higher education.
But there is little consensus on this point. Roger W. Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, wrote last December in a letter to Miller that, "The Secretary of Education's rosy report about federal funds for higher education included funds to support research. This figure is only moderately relevant to the Commission's specific concern about resources for teaching."
Elizabeth Boylan, provost of Barnard, called global assessment tests for liberal education at the college level "counter-productive and ill-advised."
Ellen Smith, Columbia's director of Governmental Affairs, wrote in an e-mail that, "At this time, it would be premature to comment on any of the preliminary proposals being discussed by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education."
In defense of standardized testing, Miller has often cited the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a test which was used to evaluate University of Texas students at nine campuses while Miller was head of the system's Board of Regents. Provost Boylan was careful to differentiate between this type of testing and national testing. "Multi-campus state institutions, for example, have a stake in assuring such inter-institutional quality in content areas," she said.
David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities-of which Columbia is a member-has voiced his opposition, saying that standardized testing "trivializes the outcome" with its one-size fits all approach.
Several Columbia students said that standardized tests were unnecessary for the college level.
"I think the standard by which the 'necessary' verbal and quantitative skills are measured pretty much ends with a good high school education," Miguel Lopez, CC '08, said.