Panic At One Dupont!

Over at One Dupont Circle which is the home of most of DC’s higher education associations the word this morning on the edustreet is “holy edush*t!” That’s because of this scary NYT story about possible Bush Administration plans to use standardized measures to increase accountability in higher education.

A few thoughts:

First, there is an accountability problem in higher education. Costs, graduation rates, etc…are real issues. As unaccountable as K-12 schools can be, colleges and universities are even worse.

Second, however, though K-12 accountability is complicated higher education is even more so because of, just to name a few key issues, differences in financing, lack of curricular core, and greater heterogeneity among institutions. The idea of standardized testing akin to what happens in K-12 does seem pretty inapplicable to the issues at hand.

But, that said, the “just say no” approach to this, given voice in today’s Times story by Bard College President Leon Botstein, is a loser for colleges and universities. Something is going to happen here — especially with Buck McKeon taking over the House Ed and Workforce Committee in the wake of Rep. Boehner’s ascension –and it’s going to be done with the colleges and universities at the table or done to them in their absence. The higher ed folks have only to look as far as K-12 and No Child Left Behind to see what happens when no one comes forward with serious reform ideas for a serious problem. At a minimum it leads to stunningly bad cartoons and often more serious consequences, too!

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