Thursday, February 12, 2015

Social Promotion Comes to College

By Professor Doom

     Many times I’ve warned that what’s going on in higher education today is mostly fraudulent, but rarely have I tried to link any of the fraud to the likewise mostly fraudulent “public” (more accurately, “government”) school system. This isn’t a simple oversight on my part—I prefer, when making such serious accusations, to have my own direct observations to add, and I just don’t have the personal experience with what goes on in public school to do so.

      Nevertheless, it’s quite plausible that higher education’s decay is simply an extension of “lower” education. In the past, people were particularly willing to surrender their tax dollars to get their children educated. Only now, after a century of such waste, have citizens started to realize that what’s been going on in the public school has, primarily, been detrimental to their children. As we see more and more students graduating high school with the inability to read cursive and lacking other abilities we used to associate with 10 year olds, and, in short, the unwillingness to learn or do anything but to go to the government to get the next dollop of information/food/money, it becomes ever more obvious that putting a child in government school is probably one of the worst abuses a parent can do.

      The abuses and mistakes of government school have been filtering up to higher education. There’s been no choice in the matter. “Open admissions” foolishness, combined with the student loan scam, have caused a flood of semi-students to come on campus to get their checks…and these students have no equipment for the obscure theory-crafting of higher education. They want their money, and they want to go home.

     While higher education has been heavily debased, there still are a few rules here and there that make it tough, or at least inconvenient, for the completely ignorant to go far in college coursework. Even defining “college” down to the 6th grade only helps a little: there are still educators in higher education that honestly believe a student shouldn’t attempt material intended for adults until the student has mastered the material any 10 year old can learn.  These educators are vastly outnumbered by administrators that only view standards as an impediment to further institutional growth.

               The Civil War was inevitable, but it didn’t have to be that way.”

---quote from a student history paper. A month before the paper was written, the history professor ranted extensively to the rest of the faculty how annoying it was that he had to stop his lecture, and spend time defining the word ‘inevitable’ to his class. This student was in the class, heard the professor give the simple definition of “inevitable”…but still didn’t understand. This is common to remedial students: they can look you dead in the eye, nod in agreement that they understand, and still not comprehend a word you’re saying. Remedial students can take other college classes, even if they have yet to take, much less pass, the remedial courses. They usually do terribly, of course.

      This coursework is “remedial”, and, as I’ve shown many times before, almost the entirety of community college is remedial work, with only a miniscule amount of what goes on in community college being even remotely passable as college material. To emphasize: I’m not saying “in my day…”, the material in community colleges is oftentimes identical, if not simpler, than the material being taught right now in public schools, to children, in places mere blocks away from the institution.

      I’m not the only one to notice the huge joke that is community college, and if it ever becomes widespread knowledge that community college coursework is mostly pre- and lower level high school work, there’s going to be a problem. Fixing this problem in advance would require integrity, and regular readers of my blog know that’s not an option in higher education.

      Instead, the problem will be covered up using the technique that the public schools used to cover up the fact that, quite often, they’re not doing anything at all with the children in their care: social promotion.

     Yes, social promotion has come to college. I kid you not, as the title of the following states:

--it’s just Florida Community Colleges for now, but I assure you it will be copied…I’ve been to many meetings where we copy the frauds committed at community colleges elsewhere. Faculty explain to admin that the new plans are academically frauds…and then we get it shoved down our throats anyway.

     As is so often the case in these little news pieces, everything is candy-coated to give the appearance of legitimacy, as though the actors involved would be shocked, shocked, if anything untoward was going on.

     So allow me to rip off the candy coating in the article and reveal some truth of what’s going on:
Students are often placed into remedial courses at community colleges by inferior standardized tests… 

      Those standardized tests are inferior? Inferior to what, exactly? I concede they’re far from perfect, but considering these tests take about 15 minutes to administer (which is all the students will stand for), and cost about $2 to grade (which is all administration is willing to pay), they do a GREAT job of summarizing what the student has learned in 12 years of government schooling.

     I promise you, if there was something better, we’d use it. “Inferior” is rubbish when there’s nothing superior available. 

“…with arbitrary cut scores, “

     Uh, nope. The cut scores aren’t arbitrary at all. The cut scores are determined by looking at the success rates of students in the courses, based on the scores they got on the tests. They’re about 95% accurate when it comes to placement, which the best you can hope for—sometimes students will just have a bad day or be lucky guessers. For what it’s worth, every institution has a “the student can do whatever he wants” clause if he doesn’t like the test score, and register for courses that we know he isn’t ready for despite what the placement test says.

Admin: We’re changing the cut scores to put more students into College Algebra. They’ll still be competitive.

--even though the test makers know what the test scores mean, admin views them as an impediment, and will override them for the goofiest of reasons.

     About every year, a student will get a low score on the standardized tests, yell at admin “I got a 4.0 in high school, I’m not a remedial student!”, and they let him enroll in the sophomore level high school courses that pass for “advanced” community college coursework today. In ten years of my being at a questionable community college, every single student that did this failed.

     Despite this, I still argued in favor of having the clause; no matter how good the tests are, they’ll never be perfect, we should always allow an individual student to do what he thinks is best, even if that means ignoring our advice.

      No, the scores aren’t arbitrary…they’re just the best possible guess based on thousands of students.
     The article continues with the barrage of misinformation:

“..and less than one-third of students placed into remediation are likely to graduate from college.”

     This is inaccurate. It’s not less than 1/3, it’s less than 10% of remedial students graduate. Granted, most community colleges boast less than a 10% graduation rate overall, so perhaps this is just picking on remedial students. The point still remains: this article is not doing the most accurate job of conveying information. Otherwise the article would simply also mention that most community college students are remedial students, and that community college graduation rates run below 10% in general.

“…with a wave of their legislative wand, the Florida legislature has made all of the students that would have placed into remediation disappear.”

      And, just like that, maybe the 90% of the community college work that is high school level or lower will just disappear, right? Nope. The remedial courses will disappear…but they’ll quietly be replaced by “college” courses that cover the exact same material as the remedial courses, just now for (worthless) college credit.

“…According to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, in 2009 only 32 percent of students leaving Florida high schools tested proficient or above in reading, just 19 percent in mathematics….”

     So yes, what we have here is, indeed, social promotion. The students, the strong majority of them, are not ready for college, completely unprepared, in fact. That’s how it’s always been; in the past, only students that took college preparation courses in high school were prepared for college, which really strikes me as reasonable.

     But now everyone can go to college, because “open admission” policies are better for growth. Since there’s a stigma of the being a “developmental” student (hey, remember when “retarded” was a stigma, to be replaced by “special ed”, which was then replaced by “remedial”, and then by “developmental”? Anyway…), they’re going to socially promote these students directly into college.

     But…wait a minute. The lower education system is a forced system, imposed on children. So, I sort-of followed the idea of social promotion there, because it wasn’t all that fair to children to get labeled like that…even as I acknowledge that ultimately these children get harmed by being moved up to things they’re not ready to handle (it’s called abuse for a reason, after all). But this is college now…these students aren’t being forced to go to college, and I don’t see how there can be that much of a stigma when 90% of the campus is devoted to remedial coursework, anyway. If anything, being a real student on a community college campus would be the stigma. I know being a legitimate professor on a community college campus made me a target, since I was such a minority.

      The article fails to ask the OBVIOUS question: why are these students, with little to no interest in higher education, flooding onto campus? The answer is likewise, obvious: the student loan scam.  
     These people are coming to college to get those checks; with my own eyes I’ve seen plenty of community college classrooms with 30% or more of the “students” disappearing the day the checks arrive.

      So, when faced with the prospect of swarms of people showing up to exploit the student loan scam, the path of integrity would be to shut down the scam, or at least restrict it to just the students that obviously have an interest in learning.

     Instead, we’re opening up the scam to a wider audience.

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