Sept. 19, 2007

A Worldwide Test for Higher Education?

For much of the last year or two, debate
<>  has raged among
American higher education officials and state and federal policy makers
about the wisdom and practicality
<>  of creating a system
that would allow for public comparison of how successfully individual
colleges and/or programs are educating their students. Many college leaders
have rejected the push, which has emanated primarily from the Secretary of
Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education and the U.S.
Education Department, on the grounds that the nation's colleges and
universities - two-year and four-year, public and private, exclusive and
open enrollment - and their students are far too varied to be responsibly
and intelligently measured by any
<>  single, standardized
measure (or even a suite of them).

But the thirst among politicians and others seeking to hold colleges and
universities more accountable for their performance is powerful, and it is
not merely an American phenomenon. Proof of that can be found in the fact
that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has convened
a small group of testing experts and higher education policy makers who have
met quietly in recent months to discuss the possibility of creating a common
international system to measure the learning outcomes of individual colleges
and university systems, along the lines of the well-regarded test that OECD
countries now administer to 15-year-olds, the Program for International
Student Assessment.



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