Some Texas lawmakers are looking to create an academic assessment tool to measure and compare the teaching abilities of the state’s public universities.
Today, members of the Senate Committee for Higher Education took up SB 436. The bill would make it a requirement for Texas universities to issue students a learning assessment before the first day of class, and during the last semester before graduation. The assessment would act as a tool to monitor student growth.
The assessment would test student’s critical thinking and writing skills – skills needed for job success. In a report by sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, 36 percent of students experienced no significant improvement in learning in over four years of schooling. The study used data taken from one of these assessments, the Collegiate Learning Assessment. The University of Texas has issued the CLA on a limited basis since 2004.
The assessment would also provide a benchmark of comparison for universities. Tom Lindsey, director of the Center for Higher Education at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, spoke at the hearing in support of the bill.
“I think push come to shove, more important than which test is that everyone in Texas have administered the same test so we can make truly apples-to-apples comparisons.”
Mary Aldridge Dean with the Texas Faculty Association voiced her concerns with more testing. She argued employers are looking for “more critical thinking, and they attributed that to a liberal arts education." She also mentioned a Washington Post op-ed penned by Microsoft founder Bill Gates warning of the overuse of standardized testing.