Friday, January 3, 2014

More on Fixing Remediation

By Professor Doom

Administrator: “…we’re going to change the scores on the placement tests so students won’t go into remedial classes. They’ll still be competitive.”
--administrator responding to legislation that would have prevented hordes of remedial students from flooding the system. It’s been funny the last few years, watching legislators try to force integrity into higher education, and watching administration casually squirm through the tiniest of loopholes. Until accreditation is fixed, there’s nothing lawmakers can do.

     My last suggestion, no longer give student college loans for non-college, remedial, coursework has a very critical flaw: an administrator can simply redefine what is classified as “remedial” coursework. Alternatively, they can redefine what constitutes a remedial student, much like above—if a remedial student is one that scores low on test, an administrator will just change the meaning of “low.” It doesn’t matter that those tests benefit from decades of experience with who is successful in college, if it gets in the way of the sweet loan check, it’s gone.

Student: “How can you tell .02 is less than .05?”
--this level of mathematical aptitudes comes after 12 hours of mathematical training in college, by the way.

     This is why, earlier, I proposed that faculty, not administrators, control accreditation, and make “what is college coursework” part of accreditation. It’s the only way to protect what college is, and to keep it from decaying into the joke that it mostly is today. “College coursework” doesn’t have to be much, but with 90% of community college work being at the high school level or lower, something serious needs to be done.

“1/6 + 1/6 + 1/6 + 1/6 = 4/24 = 1/6”
--most common student answer to a probability calculation on a quiz I gave (“what is the probability of rolling a “6” four times in a row?”), calculators allowed. Again, two years of college math to get to this level. It isn’t simply that the arithmetic is bad, the students can’t even address the actual material in the course.

     Today, administrators know that the great remedial education scam can’t go on, they’re already trying to think of ways to screw over suckers in more subtle ways:

“Why Remedial Classes Are No Longer Required at Florida Colleges.”
--and just like that, the 90% failure rate of remedial students will stop, right? Florida may as well tell the starving to eat cake, since they can’t afford bread.

     So, in Florida, there will be no more remedial education. There will still be students that can’t read, write, or do basic arithmetic in college courses. A thinking person would realize the only possible outcome of this will be a watering down of college coursework even further.

     It won’t stop at Florida. Administrators there will threaten and fire faculty until they reduce course material to the point that the illiterate can pass an astrophysics course. My own experience tells me this will be the case.

     In a few years, studies will show that students without remedial education are “competitive” with other students, and that the remedial education really is optional. The studies won’t show that the remedial students are only getting degrees in worthless fields like Sexual Deviancy, Urban Studies, and Cultural Tolerance, and the studies won’t show that the coursework in other courses has been reduced to sub-high school level to accommodate the warm bodies sweet checks weaker students.

    Once those studies get out, other states will do the same thing and annihilate their remedial coursework, and, assuming higher education lasts another decade or two, it’ll be pretty easy to find fully accredited college graduates that can’t read, write, or do ‘rithmetic. It’s an embarrassment that, today, we can find high school graduates like that, but this will be a further embarrassment, as the college graduates will be deep in debt, too.

Me: “So, we take away 1/3 from 1, and get 2/3. I take this number and…”
Student: “Wait. How’d you do that?”
--Even in a 2000 level course at community college, every time a fraction pops up on the board, the class grinds to a halt. And that’s WITH a year of remedial coursework (run by educationists, but it’s still theoretically coursework).

     The only thing that matters to administration is retention. They’ve known for years that remedial students are very hard to retain, but will never admit the obvious: a student that failed to learn material in the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades will generally fail to learn the material in college as well. Administrators don’t care, not with a sweet student loan check on the line.

    Now, educators know that half a dozen years of prior failure give some indication of the future, have always known this, which is why “old” accreditation mandated respectable entrance requirements

Unfortunately, administrators control accreditation now, and have obliterated those entrance requirements to the point that “open admission” is the standard for higher education, with only a few schools really restricting admission to only those students that actually have some interest in learning.

     Put faculty back in control of accreditation, let faculty control what is “college work,” and the mess that Florida is planning can’t happen. No, there won’t be gargantuan universities in every city, along with cohorts of bloated community colleges…but there won’t be legions of deeply indebted human beings with worthless degrees, either.

     Again, I’m not elitist, and I certainly don’t know everything, which is why I have that other, obvious fix to accreditation: remove the (probably illegal) regional monopoly system. Maybe, just maybe, a person with a 5th grade education really can “compete” with students that study and care to know if it’s a good idea to inject air bubbles into a human bloodstream. Maybe.

    So, sure, let some accrediting body say “we’ll accredit schools that have nursing graduates who inject air bubbles into people.” A school that wants that level of rigor in the accreditor can still get accredited, and can recruit all the 20 year olds with the mental acuity of 10 year olds into its high tech programs. An employer that doesn’t pay much could recruit these kinds of nurses. Other schools that are more interested in quality education will have the option of going to a serious accreditor…this is vastly superior to today, where schools have no choice about going to the bogus accreditor, assigned to their region.

      I don’t know everything, maybe Florida is on the right path and it won’t be the obvious disaster it seems. I just want to give higher education a chance to survive. Putting educators in control of accreditation, of education, is a start…removing the regional monopoly system means even if I’m wrong, there’s still hope.

     On the other hand, the current system of administrators with no respect for education destroying the knowledge and experience of centuries of higher education so they can fatten their already obese salaries? There’s no hope there at all.

1 comment:

  1. "Once those studies get out, other states will do the same thing and annihilate their remedial coursework, and, assuming higher education lasts another decade or two, it’ll be pretty easy to find fully accredited college graduates that can’t read, write, or do ‘rithmetic."

    With regard to 'rithmetic that's already the case. With regard to reading and writing, one can almost find illiterate graduates. I'm reminded of an autobiography written twenty or more years ago where a college graduate admitted he literally could not read. An extreme case but you will find truckloads of graduates with degrees in joke subjects who read at 7th or 8th grade level and can't write a single paragraph without spelling, syntax, and grammatical errors.