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Test Quality, Bennett Tells Colleges

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Bennett To Colleges: Assess Quality Washington--Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said last week that colleges and universities have an obligation to develop more accurate measurements of the quality of education they offer to undergraduates.

The federal government is willing to assist in such efforts, the Secretary said.

Specifically, Mr. Bennett suggested that his department could expand the National Assessment of Educational Progress to cover students in the college and post-college years. naep now tests the abilities of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds in mathematics, reading, and eight other subject areas.

But the Secretary warned in his Oct. 28 speech, delivered at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education in Miami Beach, that the federal government would not take the lead role in the preparation of such assessments.

Keeping Promises

"This is the surest way to turn the lofty statements of college catalogues into actual classroom practice," the Secretary told those attending the ace meeting. "If we are to keep our promises, we must be willing to shed light on our strengths--and on our shortcomings, and on our efforts to turn shortcomings into strengths.

"I, for one, do not think such candor will harm anyone's admissions pool," he added.

Mr. Bennett made similar comments during a speech at the meeting of the College Board in San Francisco on Oct. 23. In that address, he warned that "if the higher-education community does not develop more effective means of eval-uating itself, the pressures will grow for such assessment to be undertaken by others."

Mr. Bennett's call for better measurements of the quality of higher education coincides with efforts by elementary- and secondary-school educators in recent years to develop an accurate set of "indicators" of educational progress. Mr. Bennett noted the existence of this effort in his ace speech, adding that administrators of colleges and universities could "learn a lesson" from the current movement to reform the nation's high schools.

In particular, Mr. Bennett noted that studies of "effective schools'' indicate that such schools share certain characteristics, including "a willingness to define educational goals, to assess performance in meeting those goals, and to make the results available to the community."

Partisanship Charged

At the ace conference, Mr. Bennett held a meeting to express his dismay with what he said was the partisan rhetoric and actions of the organization's Washington staff, according to his spokesman, Loye W. Miller.

Mr. Miller said Mr. Bennett had expressed particular concern over the fact that the ace had invited leading Democratic lawmakers to their meeting, but no leading Republicans--such as Senator Robert T. Stafford, chairman of the Senate education panel, or Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida.

The Secretary, in the meeting with ace officials, criticized their "extremely petty and hostile attitude," according to Mr. Miller.--tm

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