Here’s a useful rundown of the issues the DoE has been raising with the accreditors. My fear is that what will follow is something like "No College Student Left Behind" or, perhaps, college rankings no more helpful or revealing than those provided annually by U.S. News and World Report.
Our friend Jeff Martineau, who I’ll be seeing, perhaps in a little more than an hour, offers a pointed analysis with reference to the DoE’s shabby treatment of his employer. His wise words are worth taking to heart:
Many believe that the attack on AALE is primarily a means to other ends, the most important of which is to “send a message” to the powerful regional agencies about how serious the secretary is about this. This, they say, is why AALE is being singled out for lacking benchmarks, even though no other accreditor of undergraduate colleges has them.
The great irony is that few, if any, of the substantive concerns of conservatives will be addressed by the substitution of “outcomes” for judgment. Replacing qualitative measurements of academic excellence with quantitative ones will, in fact make it even more difficult to engage higher education in a long overdue national discussion of what educated graduates should know beyond the requirements of their careers. It will do nothing to revive the idea that there is an educational “core” or help in curbing intellectual bias or hiring practices. None of these affect the “outcomes” upon which the institution will be judged.
If this new scheme goes forward, we will, no doubt, be provided with lots and lots of data. One might ask, however, whether this will provide sufficient recompense for the loss of the one accrediting organization that promotes the traditional view of higher education? Is the secretary’s devotion to quantitative results so critical that accreditation based on judgment and subjective evaluation must go by the boards? Many of AALE’s supporters do not think so and hope yet to persuade the Department of Education that its approach is beneficial and legitimate.
Anyone around Williamsburg should drop in on
the panel (p. 4 of the pdf) Jeff is chairing tomorrow. I’d be there, but I’m chairing another panel.
My thoughts on Jeff’s subject are here.