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The Department of Education & Measuring The Difference Between Knowledge and Growth

August 13, 2014, 8:58 PM

Now that the U.S. Department of Education is in the business of rating colleges and universities, it faces a major decision with regard to how it chooses to measure actual student learning. That's because, as New America's Ben Miller explains in an article over at EdCentral, adequate metrics for determining such a thing just don't exist at this point.

Miller, who is a former Education Department Senior Policy Advisor, explains that developing measurements to provide information about learning requires a weighing of values to determine how exactly "learning" should be defined:

"For example, do we want colleges to report evidence of the overall level of knowledge their students have or the growth in knowledge over time." (underlines are his)

The former would call for a sort of end-of-college SAT to determine the knowledge levels of graduates. The latter would involve broader tests to gauge the progression of knowledge from beginning to end of an undergraduate's tenure. While one system would allege to measure knowledge as an independent entity, the other would focus on personal growth. Whether either of them would actually provide useful information is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholder. 

Miller seems to vouch for the "growth" route, which implies he feels strongly any government ratings should at least attempt to provide information determining a college's ability (if one exists) to improve upon a student's knowledge bank. That may mean some form of standardized testing which, on the surface, seems to clash with the collegiate tradition of specialized education. 

This is just a very basic glimpse into Miller's thoughts and his piece goes on to offer musings on many aspects of education metrics. Take a look at his full article and let us know what you think. 

Read more at EdCentral

Photo credit: Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

Below, journalist Fareed Zakaria discusses the knowledge economy and how business leaders seek out employment candidates who demonstrate aptitude in the realm of learning new skills.


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