Are the elite colleges really any better? (education sentences to ponder)

An article in The Wall Street Journal explores higher education as a lobbying force, and find colleges to have large and effective representation in Washington. Based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the article finds that higher education had 1,020 lobbyists in 2014, third among industries (after pharmaceuticals and electronics). In terms of effectiveness, the article notes the extent to which the Obama administration pulled back on its initial plans for rating colleges.

That is from InsideHigherEd, there is nothing more at the link.  And here is another, meatier piece from the same issue, perhaps not totally unrelated, excerpt:

…they [the researchers] found that on only one of the five measures, cognitive complexity of the course work, did the elite colleges in the study outperform the nonelite institutions.

On two, standards and expectations of the course work and the level of the instructors’ subject matter knowledge, there were no meaningful differences by prestige level. On two others, though — the extent to which the instructors “surfaced” students’ prior knowledge and supported changes in their views, the lower-prestige institutions outperformed the elite ones.

That is from a new study which tries to measure, through classroom visits, whether classes at elite colleges are really any better.  That article has many interesting points, including the usual evasive reply from commentators as to whether this really measures anything (“If I’m teaching a 15-week course, does one class really represent the quality of my teaching?” — TC says yes).  Believe it or not, three elite institutions actually permitted such visits to take place, even though they presumably had nowhere to go but down.  I cannot however find a copy of the paper on-line.

Please note by the way that I still adhere to my transformational/acculturation theory of higher education.


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