Finally. A reliable and valid measure that counts the change a university education puts on the Other Guys called students. We once just assumed that a bachelor’s degree meant the Other Guys were now different and better as a result of taking Comm 80 with Dr. Rock. Of course, that assumption was faulty.
“For too long, colleges and universities have said to the American public, to students and their parents, ‘Trust us, we’re professional. If we say that you’re learning and we give you a diploma it means you’re prepared,’ ” said Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “But that’s not true.”
Now we can prove the change with a test.
The test, called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, “provides an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills,” said David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. John Fisher College, a small liberal-arts school near Rochester, N.Y. “The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves.”
Now, color me biased. I’m dead by degrees, bachelor to Masters to doctoral, and worse than that, I was a tenured professor in one of those fauxLearning factories called a university. I even published self- and system-protecting peer review research that enabled the criminal enterprise to continue. You cannot trust a word I say!
My bias now noted we can consider my persuasion analysis of the Collegiate Learning Assessment.
First, a Peitho nomination to the Council for Aid to Education, the guys who invented this persuasion play. The Council is a nonprofit once affiliated with RAND Corp.
(Bias Side Bar: I worked with RAND during my Fed days. RAND makes AARP look like a lemonade stand. RAND required and received higher indirects on Fed funding than Harvard! Over 100%. And that was in 2001, kids, with Mr. Bush running the Fed, not exactly a RAND kinda guy. Imagine the rate RAND gets from Team Obama. RAND also has a nice office in Arlington. Right next to the Ritz-Carleton Hotel. Funny how coincidences like that happen, huh? But, RAND is a nonprofit. Really. Back to the opera!)
And if you’ve ever worked with nonprofits you know that there is a lot of money to be made for the people in the nonprofit even with the absence of shareholders and investors. No one who knows nonprofits doesn’t know there is nonetheless a for-profit mentality and operation at a nonprofit. A Peitho nomination just for seeing this opportunity if not yet realizing the benefits that may accrue from it.
What benefits? Think about this. The Council says universities cannot prove the effect of their education, but the Council can with the CLA. Remember the key quote:
“The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves.”
Big deal, you’ve got a lousy degree from UMich or USC or even LSU. That just means you’ve got merit badges in keggers, bowl games, and twerking. Unless you are aiming for the Miley Cyrus turf, that degree don’t mean a thing. Enter now the CLA. Your score on that test will prove the change that is counted with the test score, exactly what you learned from that university.
Did I say university? Why just university? Why not any source that provides a bachelor’s degree level of learning? Like a MOOC. Or your Mom’s kitchen with home-schooling? Imagine if the Council can actually sell that line to even a small percentage of the millions of graduating seniors every year and their employers. No matter where the undergrad did the learning, the Council and Its test of Collegiate Learning Assessment can count your change, prove your learning, and provide the merit badge you need for a great job to those employers.
Kids want the CLA because employers want it because everyone thinks a single standardized test can measure what no university can measure: The effect of a university education.
Thus, universities do deliver education plays that do change at least some of the Other Guys called students, but the universities cannot prove this. The Council makes no claim at delivering education plays, but does assert it can measure the education plays it cannot run for itself.
You’d think since we talking about tests and counting changes that you’d find some kind of Falling Apples in here. Man, there’s got to be some science in education and measurement. And, if there’s some science then there’s got to be peer review literature with lots ‘n lots of numbers. Then hit your favorite academic search engine like I did on August 26, 2013 (Academic Search Complete database through the WVU Library). Key word search on “Collegiate Learning Assessment.”
I found 29 hits in the publication type called Academic Journals. All of these journals were of the executive or association type that provide little more than that What I Did On My Fulbright articles. Lots of perspective, opinion, and prediction. The CLA thingy has been around since 2003, ten years. That led to 29 book reports, but: No data! To date the Council has published no Falling Apple papers on the CLA in peer review literature. None. And no one in the university network, the home of peer review, has published any data on the CLA.
So. That Council has no published Falling Apples to verify the measure of change that universities deliver, but cannot count for themselves. Give the Council another Peitho nomination for sheer brass.
You see how ridiculous this is. The Council is a bunch of nonprofit vampires and panthers out for the blood of universities while shouting those universities produce something worth measuring that the universities cannot measure for themselves. It’s crazy on the face of it. How can the Council get away with this play?
Anyone who works in higher education can tell you that it is almost impossible to show an effect for an institution on its students because it all depends upon the entering level of skill of the kids. Take a bunch of dumb kids and run them through Ivy and four years later they will also still be about as dumb as they were before. Take a bunch of smart kids and run them through Phoenix and four years later they will be about as smart as they were before.
As we’ve noted before even really cool schools admit this, but not very loudly because it means that schools don’t really change kids, they just certify them by prior motivation, skill, and ability. Chances are real good that if you have a degree from Harvard, in high school you were in the National Honor Society, won conference medals in track, edited the school paper, and had a real high score on the SAT or ACT. And, if you have a degree from some other college, you didn’t do those things in high school. Universities operate more on the prestige of the kids they attract than what they do with those kids on campus.
Universities cannot shout this out loud and we finally see the opening the CLA Council is charging through. Since any particular school cannot deliver a single measure of worth for each kid beyond the degree, the Council will step in and invent a simple to understand test that will prove what already exists.
Remember the Rule: Persuasion Is Strategic or It Is Not.