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Texas Senate
May 9, 2000
(512) 463-0300

Stephen F. Austin State University Hosts Special Commission on 21st Century Colleges and Universities Public Hearing

NACOGDOCHES - The Special Commission on 21st Century Colleges and Universities held a public hearing Tuesday, May 9, 2000, in the University Center at Stephen F. Austin State University. Lt. Governor Rick Perry appointed the commission to examine workforce needs and demographic changes facing Texas in the coming years. Among the issues the commission will be discussing are accessibility and affordability, use of technology, accountability, funding mechanisms, and the link between research and development and economic growth. The commission is hearing from experts and citizens across the state, issuing a report by November 1, 2000.

The Nacogdoches meeting focused on accountability in higher education. The first presentation was given by Dr. John Yopp, Vice-President of Graduate and Professional Education, Educational Testing Service (ETS). ETS, located in Princeton New Jersey, administers the GRE and other exams. Dr. Yopp's testimony was about the role of testing in the higher education, the role of the test maker ensuring fairness, new possibilties with computer adaptive testing, and the importance of proper test score use.

Dr. David England, President of Irving's North Lake Community College, gave an overview of community college performance measures and accountability. Dr. England's testimony included information and recommendations from the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) Performance Measures Committee on student intent. England chaired the committee.

Testimony was then heard from Dr. Daniel Bonevac and Dr. Robert Koons, Professors of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Bonevac testified on the TEATH (Texas Excellence through Assessment of Teaching in Higher Education Examinations) proposal. TEATH would provide accountability mechanisms for institutions of higher education similar to the TAAS tests used in elementary and secondary education. The plan provides for separate exams for each major subject, taken during the final semester before graduating. The tests would not effect graduation. Dr. Koons expanded on the proposal by suggesting that the tests would need to be required of all graduating students, include high standards, and measure the value added. Test scores would be included on transcripts.

The commission questioned Yopp, England, Bonevac and Koons as a panel. Commission members had a variety of questions ranging from their personal methods of assessment to how the tests would effect the liberal arts. A major concern was whether colleges and universities would spend valuable resources to assist students with the tests; ie. formulating study guides and courses to ensure high grades.

The commission heard from Dan Ray of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, who presented the report requested by the commission, Beyond the Barriers: Issues and Ideas in Improving Access. Ray was accompanied by fellow students Brenda Aguilar, Mary Helen Harris, Daniel Morales, and Jill Shaunfield. All of the students are completing graduate degrees from the Bush School. The report includes five areas of focus:

  • Defining and integrating access goals using recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation;
  • Developing a higher education campaign using mainstream marketing approaches, and increasing interest in high demand careers;
  • Providing better preparation for higher education by linking the TASP and TAAS exams and more efficiently providing remedial classes to students in high school;
  • Offering better financial aid information and disbursement using incentives for both the student and parents;
  • Creating partnerships with employers to provide students with mentors and advisors throughout and include financial incentives to businesses to encourage participation in career development.

Members of the commission include Jim Adams of San Antonio serving as chair, Kirbyjon Caldwell of Houston, James Hooten of Houston, Betsy Goebel Jones of Lubbock, Margarita Diaz Kintz of Austin, Nancy Cain Marcus of Dallas, Jeff Sandefer of Austin, Elaine Mendoza of San Antonio, Karen L. Shewbart of Lake Jackson, Danny Vickers of El Paso, Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza; and Senators Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi, Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, and Royce West of Dallas.

The commission stands recessed subject to the call of the chair.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.