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The Daily Tar Heel

System may adopt standardized tests

UNC-system schools are now voting on whether to approve the newly proposed subjects of systemwide assessments, intended to prove that students learn in college.

But members of the UNC-CH Faculty Executive Committee said at its Monday meeting that they are concerned with the rushed process.

The UNC-CH Faculty Council will vote on whether to approve the critical thinking and written communication competencies Friday.

The two competencies under evaluation have already been approved by the UNC Faculty Assembly.

Even if UNC-CH decides that it does not want to take part in the process to create the test, a systemwide vote will decide for all schools.

If the resolution passes, students across the UNC system will be tested on these two core competencies in assessments.

The creation of the assessments stem from criticism, such as the book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” arguing that undergraduates aren’t learning anything at college, said Anne Whisnant, secretary of the faculty.

The two competencies are a part of system president Tom Ross’s five-year strategic plan. The Collegiate Learning Assessment, which tested critical thinking, problem solving and written communication, was piloted at five UNC system campuses last spring.

“I was surprised there were only two competencies,” said Abigail Panter, a member of the UNC system’s General Education Council . “There were larger groups of competencies they could have gone for.”

Several committee members expressed reservations over the proposal.

Biology professor Gregory Copenhaver said passing the competencies would not be difficult.

“These core competencies are so vague they are utterly meaningless,” he said.

Universities are not limited to these competencies and can choose their own set of competencies to teach towards, said Stephen Leonard, chairman-elect of the faculty assembly.

“No one likes any of this,” he said. “In mid-January the General Education Council has to give a recommendation to the Board of Governors. Chapel Hill can be on board or not.”

Other members said they were worried about the short deadlines with which the resolutions must be passed.

“In the ideal world, we would have lots of time to think about these things. Right now we have a deadline for mid-January,” Leonard said.

Vincas Steponaitis, member of Faculty Executive Committee, said UNC-CH was going to have to short circuit to go with the flow — which he said he is not comfortable with.

Government professor Joseph Ferrell said the resolution should clearly distinguish between the UNC system and individual UNC schools.

“I don’t like the smell of this,” he said.

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