Monday, February 23, 2015

The Effect of Social Promotion in College

By Professor Doom

     A few posts back I mentioned that Florida has removed remedial education from college. Now, absolutely, remedial education is a scam that fails over 90% of students, so the honest thing to do there is to eliminate college remediation, or at least change it dramatically. The easiest change would be to put it back to where it was before the student loan scam: a small program that focuses on a few otherwise good students, helping them gain critical skills, rather than the massive scam it is today, accounting for most of college coursework at many campuses.

      So, Florida got rid of the remediation scam, good for them, there were way too many students on campus that had no business being there. Well, no, there won’t be a reduction in students, since administrators aren’t going to turn loose of that sweet, sweet, student loan money which flows into their pockets (and not even remotely into education). Instead, the students go right on into college classes…it’s social promotion on college campus.

     Let’s take a look at the initial results of this social promotion program.

     Yeah, no kidding: get rid of remediation, and the remediation rate plummets. You’d almost think I was linking CNN, above, for such a feckless look at what’s happening.

“…the college offers a new statistics math class where students can get elective credit…”

      What a shell game. One of the many problems with the remediation scam is that the remedial courses, despite charging as though they’re college credit, didn’t actually count as college credit (as well they shouldn’t, since much of it is taught at the 6th grade level or lower). Administration doubtless was catching grief for offering so much (openly) fake college coursework.

      So, they got rid of non-college credit remedial courses and replaced them with…a college credit remedial math course, where students “can get elective credit.” This is what I predicted would happen when I first wrote of the weird idea. On paper, the course looks like college credit, but community college is unhinged, as I and studies have shown, with fraudulent syllabi covering up what really goes on in the courses. This elective course is really just a remedial course with a new name, and won’t transfer; the victim rate of community college students will only increase from an already large 80%.

    The semester-long classroom lectures have been replaced with accelerated “boot camps” and computer programs that allow students work at their own pace and focus on their deficiencies. The school also developed a “Massive Open Online Course” or MOOC, where students can learn skills on their own time.

      Not only are administrators unwilling to turn loose of those student loan checks, they’re also not going to get rid of the remedial administrative fiefdoms. Note the plan above: faculty are removed from the institution, and instead there will just be administrative overseers that won’t have a clue. On the one hand, I do approve of those “work at your own pace” programs. 

     On the other? They already exist. Don’t Florida colleges know about the internet? Between Khan Academy, the public library, and half a dozen other places, a student ALREADY can “do it on his own time.” Most students willing to learn 6th grade math on their own already did so…in the 6th grade. I doubt these new programs will get much beyond a trickle of students, as opposed to the thousands that were in remediation.

      But hey, at least those huge administrative fiefdoms are safe. Whew. Whatever would we do without huge redundant programs staffed with massively overpaid administrators that will be completely unaccountable since the programs expect students to “do it on their own”? Oh yeah, higher education would become much cheaper.

“Unfortunately, if they don’t know the basics, they probably won’t have a lot of success, and that makes me nervous,” said Juliet Carl, a math professor at Broward.
     --That’s pretty bold to put your own name next to even a vague criticism, professor. 

     Back to the point, what is the obvious result of this social promotion program going to be? Well, since students that can’t read and write much past the 8th grade level will now be flowing into college courses, the professors of those courses will have to choose: water down those courses to the 9th grade level at best, or be fired and replaced by someone that will do so. Either way, college coursework will be debased further.

      This “no remediation” idea has only been going for a year so the insidious effects of what’s going on here aren’t immediately apparent, but, I promise you, in 3 to 6 more years, you’ll be able to find Florida college graduates that can’t read, write, or do ‘rithmetic, even with a college degree.

     You want to know why a high school diploma isn’t worth much anymore? Because social promotion means kids can get their diplomas without necessarily knowing anything. Hmm, wonder what’ll happen now that social promotion is in college?

      College degrees are sold, expensively, because children are raised in the school system to believe that you’ll be able to get a high paying job with one. In the real world, of course, I predict employers will quickly learn that a Florida college degree is basically worthless, although, much like other social promotion programs, I bet the kids felt proud to get that piece of paper all the same.

      It truly is ridiculous. The student that couldn’t function at the 5th grade level was socially promoted to the 6th grade. He failed then, too, and was socially promoted to the 7th grade. He failed then, too, and was socially promoted to the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade, and finally should be allowed to escape the system that is, clearly, doing him no good. Instead, he’s now going to go to college, for more pointless social promotion, identical to what was done before, and somehow the result will be different? This is madness.

      I can’t emphasize strongly enough how bizarre it is to think that someone who can’t function at the 6th, or even 9th grade level can honestly do well in college level; it’s as rational as believing someone who can’t lift 100 lbs will be quite capable of lifting 200 lbs.

      The reality is, of course, that “200 lbs” will just be defined down to “100 lbs”…though this could cause real problems when people try to use their “strength” in the real world.  It truly is amazing that our rulers in higher education have no qualms about the possibility that this new plan will do far more harm than good. As always, data is being collected on this goofy experiment that will hurt millions of kids in Florida. 

--“developmental” is the administration’s word for “remedial”, but I’m tired of changing the word for this type of coursework every few years, so I’ll just keep calling it remedial.

      This is the scariest thing about the new plan. The research will be conducted, and it will totally show that getting rid of remediation improves graduation rates. The research won’t even be theoretically capable of showing the reality that college graduation will have been defined down from “high school graduate” (what the most advanced coursework in community college is now) to “9th grade” (what the most advanced coursework in community college will be with remediation removed).

      Administrators will look at the research, see it improves graduation rates and across the country, and will adopt the new plan: graduate people that still can’t perform at the 9th grade level.

     Seriously, this is what social promotion brought to the public schools: high school graduates that never really passed the 6th grade. Now we’re moving this bizarre idea to college, and the public can’t even guess what will happen?



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