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Enough, already

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Florida university Board of Governors member Steven Uhlfelder, a faithful disciple of standardized testing, just won't give up. He wants some kind of test, for at least some students, at some point in their careers, so he can say the state is holding universities accountable.

Isn't it time for his colleagues to tell him to move on?

The universities and their students are not exactly underexamined. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is a rigorous accrediting organization that continuously assesses such things as curriculum, professional credentials, coursework and whether students are performing college-level work. The students themselves face a variety of learning checkpoints, including the College-Level Academic Skills Test, portfolio examination, screening for their major, intensive exams for post-graduate work, more exams and often fieldwork analysis for professional credentials.

The results of these reviews are readily available and can contribute to a thorough evaluation of a university's performance and whether sanctions would be appropriate. But Uhlfelder keeps wanting his standardized test, even though it would provide almost no meaningful insight into how well a university is performing. How could one test possibly measure the work of both an engineering student and a drama major? How could one test fairly assess different universities whose admissions standards may vary widely? How could a university be graded on the results of a test that Uhlfelder himself says should have no impact on whether the student graduates?

In the board's most recent debate, Florida International University professor Howard Rock put it plainly: "This would be like high school." Uhlfelder himself, asked later, said: "The longer I've looked at this, the more uncertain I am of the answers."

So why is the Board of Governors still pursuing it? How could it consider pouring $500,000 into a "pilot program" to experiment with an idea that, on its face, makes no sense?

Enough time and money have been invested in deference to Uhlfelder's ego. This idea belongs in the waste can.