Irrelevant Results in Texas

A “results-based model” for higher education is “within reach” in Texas, according to an editorial by Jeff Sandefer in the Houston Chronicle. As he explains it:

Luckily for us, there’s a tsunami of change sweeping across higher education that offers Texans an opportunity to reinvent our universities, while preserving the traditions we cherish. The false choice offered by those defending the ivory towers is that we have to choose between teaching and research. The truth is, our Texas universities can deliver both high-quality teaching and world-changing research.

It’s time to provide incentives for great teachers, too. We need to reward teachers who deliver the skills and knowledge our graduates need for productive and meaningful lives. We also need to embrace new technologies that allow the delivery of high-quality blended learning (online and classroom combinations) for basic courses at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

Finally, we can continue to support research in the humanities and other areas, but only if faculty will provide clear budgets and explicit goals so we can maximize the impact of taxpayer and tuition subsidies.

This is a piece apparently in praise of the reforms now being to pushed by Governor Rick Perry in the Lone Star state.

While not everything the American university system produces is monetizable or even measurable, results-based sure sounds promising. The problem is that the higher education reform plan under discussion in Texas doesn’t actually value the results that matter.

The reform proposal would measure professors on the number of students they teach, the amount of money they bring in through research, and how “satisfied” students are with their courses. That’s results based, for sure, but those are not the most important results. ‘

How well do students learn, how much to do they earn, and how much debt do they assume? Those are the only results that matter here. Until Texas looks seriously at these results, and these results only, this is not a reform plan worthy of serious consideration.

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