Measure It

In a follow-up to the piece Kevin Carey wrote for Democracy last year, Time has an interview with Carey to take another look at some of the issues he raised about American colleges and their transparency. According to the article Carey says:

no one knows how much students learn at a given college or university. No one knows. The entire process for assessing learning is completely idiosyncratic and course based. Now in some cases there’s good reason for that. There may be courses where literally there is one professor somewhere who is the only person who teaches a certain subject a certain way. At the same time, there is also a great deal of commonality. If you look at the courses students tend to take, almost everyone who goes to college takes a psychology class and takes an English class and takes a math class and takes basic science classes. Virtually no college assesses how much students learn in any subject and publishes data in a way that would allow you to compare it with other colleges.

Seriously, no one knows. Whether the college is public or private, no one can say how much students actually learn there. While it’s hard to argue student learning should be the only, or even primary, measure of a college’s success, it certainly seems like a appropriate point to consider. It’s not like this is a national security issue. Secrecy here does no good.

Carey points out that it would be easier to require this sort of accountability from pubic colleges than private ones but “all those private colleges are chartered by the state. Sure, the privacy of private colleges should be respected. I do think, however, that it’s reasonable to ask private colleges to disclose a lot more information.”

Reasonable, yes. Likely? We’ll see.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer