Looking back at our grade school days, we probably haven’t forgotten those annoying standardized tests we had to take. Luckily, now that we’re in college, we won’t have to put up with them anymore. Or will we?
President George W. Bush has formed a commission to examine whether standardized tests should be applied to colleges in addition to elementary and high schools. According to commission chairman Charles Miller (D., Ky.), this move comes from the need for a “nationwide system for comparative performance purposes.”
There might be many who want to keep tabs on what colleges are teaching students. Most parents pay for their children’s education and they certainly have a right to know where their money is going. University presidents and Board of Trustees members are entitled to know the quality of their professors. Even a New York Times article reporting on this subject says that in this era of high tuition, college officials feel pressured to justify costs.
But a standardized test shouldn’t be needed to accurately display the performance of a college. Since when did grades not become a reliable indicator? If there is such a demand to discover how well students are being taught, then these inquirers should survey the students. Most people don’t realize how honest students will be when it comes to the quality of their education. It would be a beneficial tool for a college to have the statistics to say 74 percent of our students are greatly satisfied with the quality of education they are receiving here.’
Creating a standardized test for colleges would be a waste of time, money and resources. It is impossible to accurately evaluate students from all the nation’s universities. Too many types of institutions exist. Schools with focuses on liberal arts, performing arts and those with religious affiliations value different focuses of study. With different schools valuing certain subjects over others, a test couldn’t be devised that accurately represents them all.
However, this college investigation is by no means a bad idea. Keeping a watchful eye on how all institutions are run is a sign of doing an efficient job. And perhaps the quality of a college education in America does need to be examined. According to the American Institutes of Research, when surveying 1,827 students at 80 colleges and universities in 2003, only a fraction were competent in math skills such as balancing a check book and figuring credit card and interest rates. The country’s low proficiency in math is an indicator that colleges need to overhaul their teaching methods in mathematical life skills.
Investigating the performance of colleges is a proactive method to constant improvement. But the creation of a standardized test would never be able to tap into the true quality of a college education. And even if one could be devised, it just wouldn’t be fair to us. We’ve done that all before.