Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Cure For Grade Inflation, part 2

By Professor Doom

     Last time around I proposed my least workable fix for higher education, addressing the problem of grade inflation. Grade inflation is a natural consequence of student evaluations being basically the only means of evaluating faculty, since a student evaluation is just a reflection of the grade the student thinks he’s going to get. My fix, let grades and tests be given not by the teacher of the course, is great in theory, and not without precedent…but has a few problems beyond simple resistance to change, a resistance that will be very strong by corrupt typical higher education.  

Student: “How come we didn’t do any of this any of the other times I took this course?”
--quite often I get students that have taken, and failed, math class three or more times with other faculty. As these students systematically take faculty until they find one that can pass them, they eventually end up in my course. Often they fail. Then they go to another faculty, and pass. Sometimes I get hate mail from students saying “I finally found a good teacher,” little realizing that the reason they finally could move ahead was I gave them a push.

      I grant this isn’t feasible for highly specialized coursework (i.e., graduate school, which I hope to get to later—I’m sorry to keep saying “I’ll get to this later”, but higher education is fraudulent on so many levels, that even though I’ve now posted over 100,000 words on it, there’s still much to cover). It almost certainly won’t work for heavily skill-based work, like, say, piano playing. I should probably address the latter, because it highlights yet another problem: why are all degrees 4 years long? It’s so bizarre that, according to higher education, it takes just as long to train a chemist as it does to train a high school guidance counselor or a parking lot attendant

     Administrators and Educationists in higher education devote a positively stupid amount of time looking at education, but this obvious issue has yet to come up, at least as near as I can tell.  I guess “not every degree should take the same amount of time” is too radical an idea for now, however. A related idea is “why does it cost just as much to take a course in the factual truth of calculus as it does to hear the questionable arguments of diversity or the material of 3rd grade math?” but now I’m getting way off topic.

     Back to the original idea. Putting testing and grading out of the teacher’s hands (at least, for his own students) would go a long way to restoring legitimacy to higher education. 

     Unfortunately, it will take years before that sort of system is fully implemented, assuming schools had the guts to do it.

     I have another fix that is quite trivial to implement, would serve in the interim, and would serve even after a more sane grading system is set up. Here goes: give an exit exam to all graduating students. An exit exam upon graduation would give employers a far better measure of what the degree means than the utterly useless GPA of today. Just one general exam to verify the students have learned a little something, before the degree is awarded.

--as a student, I was on the honors council of presidents—a student “club” consisting entirely of presidents of other student clubs. Our sole source of revenue was selling a tassel that we sold to graduating students to put on their cap at graduation. Our monthly irrelevant meetings were VERY well catered, as the above was our average yearly revenue.

     Would graduating students be willing to take one more exam? Absolutely. Already, students get their degrees held up for unpaid library dues, making them take that one more exam before they get the degree would be trivial.

      Unlike my grading system, such exams already exist. For example, the GRE General exam would work perfectly for this purpose, since it’s specifically intended for college graduates. I don’t work for ETS, the makers of the exam, but that exam has been around for years, with no major cheating scandals, and nothing but legitimacy to it…the latter is the kind of thing higher education needs.

     The scores on the GRE aren’t the easiest to interpret…but they could be converted into percentiles that anyone can understand. No longer would “average” be an “A”…average would be around the 50th percentile, right where it should be. It would no longer be possible for everyone to get an A.

     Doing poorly on the exam wouldn’t prevent the student from getting his degree, any more than a relatively low GPA did back when low GPAs were possible. It would just be another number to put right next to the useless “4.0 GPA” that everyone has on the resume. In times past, the GPA was part of how someone evaluated a resume, but since GPA is now useless due to corrupted higher education, the GRE (or other standardized) test score could be used instead.

“Our best students average over 20 on the ACT!”
--local high schools take pride in having students that do well on standardized tests. I’m not wild about standardized tests, but we need them, as I’m less wild about the absolute fraud of higher education. Seeing as these tests already exist and are cheap to implement compared to college tuition, why not use them?

     And just like that, the completely bogus degree students could be separated from the students that actually had to do something to get their degree. It would also go a long way to eliminating the unjustified “legitimacy” of accreditation. An unaccredited school that turns out graduates with high GRE scores will humiliate, humiliate, humiliate all the accredited schools that crank out graduates that can’t break the 25th percentile on the GRE. Think about that for a second: an unaccredited school right now has nothing to offer students besides “we can’t give you federal loan money.” Easy grades? Nope, accredited schools already offer those. Easy courses? Ditto. Easy degrees? Ditto. But schools that can show their students do well in controlled settings? That’s a plus.

     In fact, schools that can’t get students to do well on the GRE will probably get questions asked of them, questions that nobody asks now, like “why is education so unimportant at this school?” and “Why do your college graduates consistently perform at the sub-high school level?” I bet universities that crank out students like that and get asked such questions will suddenly look into that “integrity” thing I keep talking about.

      I used to end my essays with a homework question, and I’ve been remiss of late in challenging the reader to think about what I’ve written. So, it’s long past time for an assignment:

     Administrators have known for years that most degrees are bogus and worthless. Administrators have also known for years that GPA is meaningless. Perhaps I’ve said some unduly harsh things about administrators. However, I seriously doubt I’m so blazingly brilliant that I’m the only one to come up with an idea of an exit exam for college graduates to alleviate the irrelevance of GPAs and even degrees.

     Homework question: why does the gentle reader suppose no administrator at any institution, from sleazy to ivy league, has taken even the simple step of an exit exam to encourage legitimacy to their institutions?

Think about it.


  1. What do you think about the CLA? It's already being talked about as the "SAT for the workplace," and I did see some analysis (which I now can't track down) showing that CLA score predicted life outcomes like employment, living with parents, being in debt, etc.

  2. The CLA is probably just as good. My issue with it is it's so hard to compare "apples to apples" on one year's test to the next. I know, it can be argued that tasks are equivalent, but the bottom line is some people are going to have issues with it. I see they're point, and even if they/I are/am wrong, it seems like it would be easier to just use a more (apparently) fair measure.

    The GRE, yes, the questions change from year to year, but since the "tasks" are much smaller, the changes are far less likely to be critical, or at least so it appears.

    The point is really, why not use *something* so we can compare the institutions everyone "knows" are bogus to the other institutions? Even if the CLA has issues, it would still be at least something. The question still for me is: we all know what's going on, why hasn't even the most minimal thing been done to instill some integrity in the system?

  3. For those going on to professional school and graduate school back in the Dark Ages of the 20th Century, we had them. You've mentioned the GRE. There were the LSAT and MCATs. After those, we had the licensing exams for the professional trades such as Engineering, Medicine, Law, etc.

    You've mentioned ETS, I do recall some scandals over the years, where students had ringers take the previously mentioned examinations, yes even the professional licensing ones. Simple security measures dealt with those, if I recall correctly.