Putting Education Reform To The Test

What Are Texas’ Seven College Solutions?

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Are college reforms Gov. Rick Perry pushed in Texas coming to Florida?

The Texas model is doing to higher education what the Florida model did for K-12, at least according to supporters of the seven-point reform plan.

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has been passing the plan around to higher education officials and has tentatively signaled his support in interviews. The reforms are a hallmark of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s term as governor.

Critics argue the changes are the first step toward becoming diploma mills, encouraging grade inflation and discouraging research.

But just what do the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” do?

In general, they would ask colleges to quantify their performance by calculating a cost-benefit analysis of instructors, offering bonuses for the best-performing professors and disclosing all of that data for students and the public.

Here’s the plan developed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free market-based think tank:

  1. Measure quality — The plan would calculate a cost-benefit analysis for professors. How much are they paid? How many classes do they teach? How many students? How do students rate those professor? The data would then be compiled into rankings, which students could review before choosing their instructors.
  2. Recognize and reward teachers — This is merit pay for professors. The plan calls for the top 25 percent of professors to earn a bonus. Top bonuses would be $10,000 per class.
  3. Separate budgets for teaching and research — This would allow colleges to better evaluate what kind of bang for its buck professors are providing. Splitting the pots of money would make it clearer how and why professors are paid.
  4. Require evidence of skill for tenure — This would set easily-defined goals to earn tenure. For instance, a professor would have to earn a rating of 4.5 on a 5-point scale to be eligible for tenure. Likewise, a professor might have to teach at least three classes a semester, with at least 30 students in each class, for a set number of years before becoming eligible for tenure.
  5. Results-based contracts with students — This amounts to a mortgage good faith estimate for students. Students would have to sign a document outlining the school’s class sizes, teacher evaluations, SAT scores of incoming students and other data that would allow them to make a better informed decision.
  6. Funding in the hands of students — This proposal would take out the middle man in public funding. Some public money is given to schools as a tuition subsidy for student. The Texas Public Policy Foundation argues students will make the best decision if they get the money directly. Critics contend this creates a voucher system for colleges.
  7. Create results-based accrediting alternatives — This proposal would gradually move schools away from traditional accrediting and create a national body similar to the Securities and Exchange Commission to evaluate college claims and actual results. Colleges that can not fulfill their recruiting pitch could be investigated for fraud. Establishing new accreditation would make it possible for more schools to enter the market.

How is this plan working in Texas? And how would it look in Florida? StateImpact Florida will have more on those questions later.


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