College Testing Faces Hurdles
Education chair backtracks on standardized tests for college students
Thursday, April 06, 2006 4:05 AM
A chair of the federal higher education commission has backed away from
a suggestion that Congress should require colleges to administer
standardized tests to students.
The commissioner’s remarks may put an end to concerns that
students at Harvard and other colleges could face federally-mandated
standardized tests during their undergraduate career.
Charles Miller, the chair of the Secretary of Education’s
Commission of the Future of Higher Education, wrote in an e-mail to
fellow commission members last month that there was “no intent, no
expectation” to mandate standardized testing of college students, the
Chronicle of Higher Education reported Friday.
Miller had previously suggested that the commission might
advise Congress to withhold funding from colleges who did not
administer standardized tests.
The suggestion drew criticism from higher education
officials. The Presidents of MIT, Tufts University and Boston
University spoke out against mandated standardized testing at a public
meeting of the commission last month.
The commission, which was created last year to develop higher
education policy proposals, will release a report of its
recommendations in August.
Harvard’s senior director of federal and state relations,
Kevin Casey, said that he had “hoped and assumed” that the commission
would not ultimately endorse the suggestion to mandate standardized
Casey said that American higher education is “the envy of the world.”
“Part of it is because of the limited level of direct intrusion into curriculum by the government,” he said.
According to a paper by Miller and University of Texas
administrator Geri Malandra posted on the commission’s website,
accountability is a pressing issue because college academic standards
are becoming “diluted.”
“At Harvard in 1950, for example, about 15 percent of students
got a B+ or better: today the average is 70 percent,” Miller and
The paper presses for a “consumer-oriented, nationwide
system” that would provide students, parents, and policy makers with
the data they need to compare the quality of different colleges.
—Staff writer Lois E. Beckett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.