Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Low-stakes testing 

Faculty at SCSU continue to work without a contract as we approach one year past the last contract's expiration. Some have started wearing buttons saying "MnSCU -- we just don't fit in" or �Support Higher Education: Outsource MnSCU�. I wonder what they're wearing on the SUNY campuses after they've been told to start testing their students for writing, critical-thinking, and quantitative skills? (Subscribers only.) Well, probably not much.
Officials on each campus will be allowed to select the tests they use, although their choices will be reviewed by a systemwide group of faculty members to make sure that the tests meet certain standards. SUNY administrators and other advocates of the plan said the flexibility would allow campuses to tailor the assessments they use to their curricula. The plan also would allow the campuses that already use tests to keep some of them.
These in other words are non-standardized tests, given every three years, to only 20% of the students.
The tests would not be used to establish requirements for students to graduate or to enter specific university programs, officials added. Nor, they said, are the tests being created for use in any kind of performance-based budgeting process.
No, I don't think we'll see any buttons on the SUNY faculty. At least one trustee has sniffed through the smoke and found that there's no fire in SUNY's belly.
Candace de Russy, a SUNY trustee, cast the sole vote against the testing program. She favors requiring all campuses to administer the same test, arguing that such an approach is the only way to ensure proper measurement of educational quality across the system. By allowing each campus to choose its own test, she said, the plan creates "illusions of assured quality verified and verifiable by no one."

"Instead of ensuring SUNY hallmarks of quality," Ms. de Russy said at Tuesday's board meeting, "the assessment plan before us will guarantee that the state university remains just a loose federation of independent campuses, ultimately responsible to no one but themselves."