Sunday, November 22, 2009

The College Quality Fight - Cuộc chiến về chất lượng đại học

(Bài này đã chép từ trên mạng xuống lâu rồi, để suy nghĩ, học hỏi kinh nghiệm từ nước Mỹ nhằm đem áp dụng vào VN, nhưng hôm nay mới có dịp đọc và bình phẩm. Các bạn xem phần bình luận của tôi dưới mỗi đoạn nhé, in italics! Nói thêm: phần in đậm trong bài viết tiếng Anh là nhấn mạnh của PA)

The College Quality Fight
Lindsey Luebchow -
February 11, 2008 - 7:00pm

Colleges have won their battle with the Bush administration over accreditation reform. After two years of being chastised and pressured to better report on student learning, and then being threatened with new federal accreditation regulations, colleges turned to their longtime allies in Congress and found support. The Higher Education Act reauthorization bills, as passed by the Senate and the House, would prevent the Department of Education from issuing regulations on the accreditation process.

(Như vậy là ở Mỹ, Quốc hội đứng về phía các trường để bảo vệ quyền tự chủ của trường đại học khỏi sự kiểm soát gắt gao, cầm tay chỉ việc của Bộ Giáo dục!)

But while this is a victory for colleges, they would be wrong to think that the college quality issue has been put to rest. The heart of the matter—meaningful accountability for higher education institutions who receive billions of dollars in federal money—still has yet to be addressed. While the Bush administration failed to pursue a politically viable process for reform, the need for stronger accountability still remains highly visible to many members of Congress, and likely future members of the next Department of Education.

Where Spellings and Bush Went Wrong

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings began federal-level discussions on college quality through the work of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education in 2006. One of the Commission’s goals was to determine how to increase transparency in higher education and give students and families more information about college in general. Spellings wanted to make higher education more "consumer-friendly" and force colleges to prove to potential students that their schools are worth the investment.

These are all noble goals, and ones around which the Department of Education possibly could have developed a bipartisan consensus. As college tuition skyrockets, members of Congress are becoming more and more concerned about how the federal government can ensure that its investment in higher education isn’t being wasted. And addressing college quality is an appealing course of action, because (a) accountability and fiscal responsibility are easy concepts to sell; (b) constituents would love more and better information on colleges; and (c) improving higher education results can be linked to a slew of other issues: international competitiveness, loss of jobs in a declining economy, etc, etc.

But the Bush administration attempted to force accreditors to take student outcomes into account when making accreditation decisions. Specifically, Secretary Spellings tried to do so through the federal regulatory process, and thus, without the input of Congress. That proved to be a political error, allowing those opposed to accreditation reform to argue process over substance and giving cover to those substantively uneasy with the entire idea.

In terms of substance, Republicans have always struggled with the tension between government accountability and intervention. If the federal government is going to make large investment in something, then it should be able to monitor the results of this investment. But monitoring results tends to require federal intrusion into the localized management of education—the enemy of free-market, small-government Republicans.

So many Republicans in Congress were not thrilled with administration’s attempts to press accountability on higher education (and were likely a little wary after being reprimanded by their constituents for No Child Left Behind’s federal involvement). In response, the Bush administration toned down its rhetoric on accreditation over time (Spellings told the federal accreditation advisory panel in December: "Let me repeat: No one-size-fits-all measures, no standardized tests.") But it was still left fighting that battle by itself, and it lost. Too little compromise and too late.

(Bài học kinh nghiệm mà PA rất thấm thía: Đừng để những sai lầm về phương pháp trở thành công cụ cho đối thủ chỉ trích chúng ta về mục tiêu!)

War Should be a Last Resort

The college quality issue, however, has not died (as much as many colleges may want to see it move out of the spotlight), and it will not die. Substantively, key members of Congress and likely Republican or Democratic political staffers in the next administration's Department of Education will still want to push colleges to find and utilize better measurements of quality. Increasingly, they will be encouraged by business and the media, just as they were on elementary and secondary education reform.

We are encouraged that some colleges and higher education associations have begun voluntarily to address the need to measure student outcomes, which puts them in a better position to constructively engage and negotiate with the government. Colleges should be prepared to deal with how, not if, Congress and a new Department of Education proceed on the college quality issue. And be it through accreditation or another process, federal policymakers should be prepared to work with as opposed to against the higher education community to further the goal of heightened college quality.

Maybe the two groups can't agree on a policy to improve college quality, and a political war will be necessary. But if nothing else, this administration should have learned long ago, going to war should be a last resort and one engaged with well-armed troops.

No comments:

Post a Comment