Education Secretary Arne Duncan is annoyed with critics of the Obama Administration’s nascent plan to evaluate colleges on access (percentage of students receiving Pell Grants), affordability (tuition, scholarships and loan debt), and outcomes (graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates) and also begin to measure colleges to evaluate which ones provide students with the the best value.

According to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took critics of the Obama administration’s proposed college-rating system to task on Friday, saying that attacking a system before its details have been worked out is “more than a little silly.” He also emphasized that the proposal could represent a meaningful improvement over the current system for doling out federal aid.

In a speech to more than 100 university presidents and higher-education leaders here at the Time Summit on Higher Education, Mr. Duncan acknowledged the difficulty of creating a comprehensive system, but he said that could not be a “discussion-ending excuse for inaction.”

This is a good point, but it appears to be something of a straw man argument.

The Chronicle article indicated that Duncan appeared to be responding to a recent quote from Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, who said last month that if the Department is going to disperse out financial aid based on a new federal rating system “you have an obligation to have perfect data.”

That doesn’t strike me as a “discussion-ending excuse for inaction.” It’s a recommendation to just do a really good job.

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