Trying to Find a Measure for How Well Colleges Do

Ann McClure's picture
Monday, April 9, 2012

How well does a college teach, and what do its students learn? Rankings based on the credentials of entering freshmen are not hard to find, but how can students, parents and policy makers assess how well a college builds on that foundation?

What information exists has often been hidden from public view. But that may be changing.

In the wake of the No Child Left Behind federal education law, students in elementary, middle and high schools take standardized tests whose results are made public, inviting anyone to assess, however imperfectly, a school’s performance. There is no comparable trove of public data for judging and comparing colleges.

Pieces of such a system may be taking shape, however, with several kinds of national assessments — including, most controversially, standardized tests — gaining traction in recent years. More than 1,000 colleges may be using at least one of them.

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