Monday, February 05, 2007


Testing Texans

According to IHE, the governor of Texas is proposing mandatory tests for graduating college students, with state aid to the colleges tied to how well the graduates do.

It's one of those ideas that sounds smart for about ten seconds, until you actually start to think it through. The more you think about it, the dumber it gets. It's almost as if now that Molly Ivins has passed, Texas has declared it safe for bad ideas to roam free.

The admirable impulse behind it is to create incentives for colleges to teach well. Taken simply at that level, it's hard to object. But the method is screwy, and would almost certainly defeat the goal.

These are just the issues I could think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there are plenty more – racial bias, ESL (a HUGE issue in Texas), the usual critiques of standardized tests, interdisciplinary programs, and the fundamental fact that American higher education is the envy of the world while our K-12 system is widely perceived as a joke, raising the question of who should be imitating whom, etc. -- and many I've never even thought of. (I'll leave it to my wise and worldly readers to pile on stuff I haven't covered here.)

I hope the Texas legislature has the brains to think of at least a few of these, and to put this idea out to pasture. It has “disaster” written all over it.

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