Thursday, July 30, 2015

College Social Promotion = Failure

By Professor Doom

     So, last year, Florida decided to fix the remediation scam in a childishly simple way: students that didn’t want to take remedial courses no longer had to do so. Students are customers, now, so shouldn’t have to do things they don’t want to do, or so those who rule higher education believe. Now, it’s been long known that remediation doesn’t work, and instead screws students into wasting years of their lives for nothing. 

     Trouble is, all those remedial students greatly increase the rosters, and that means more of those sweet, sweet, student loan checks that are responsible for administration’s grotesquely high pay. 

     An institution with integrity would look at a prospective student, one that all too frequently is only coming to campus to pick up a check, and, once learning that the student is only able to think at the 5th grade level, turn the student away, saying: “Accepting you would be hurting you, and we can’t do that, because it’s wrong to take advantage of you like this.” No, that never happens. 

     Instead, “Sign up!” says the administrator, “Give us 3 months and we’ll totally make up all the work you didn’t do for the last 7 years. It won’t be problem at all.” Years later, the student is spit out, older for sure, but with nothing else to show for his time but debt.

     Because remediation is so useless, Florida legislators got rid of it, but not via integrity. Instead of just not accepting people who would only fail, the law was changed to allow the people to enroll in college courses. Hey, if they were spending their own money, I’d be somewhat ok with this, but if it’s taxpayer/loan money, I think it’s reasonable for higher education to take the path of integrity.

      Legislators clapped themselves on the back for doing such a good job, while faculty (and common sense, to be fair) said this would only increase the failure rate of college students, already rather high.

      That was a year ago, and now we have the data. Enrollment in remedial courses dropped, of course. But what about those pass rates in College Algebra? Recall, College Algebra was a remedial course some 30 years ago, being basically the math students learned (and still learn, at least in theory) in the 10th grade, but a stroke of an administrative pen turned it into a college course. What happened when students that cannot perform at the 5th grade level enrolled in the 10th grade course?

    Now, that 55.7% is basically the national average when it comes to pass rate. If you’re teaching a college course, and it drops much below that, you get called by admin…and probably fired. Faculty know this, and upon seeing the flood of unqualified students pouring into class, reduced their standards…and still saw the pass rates drop sharply.

     Folks, social promotion is a weak idea for public schools, but makes no sense at the college level. If a student can’t do the easy work, he’s probably not going to be able to do the hard work, either. It’s not doing students any favors putting them in courses where we know they’ll fail:

“The ramifications are multiple. In the simplest case, the students retake the course, but retaking the course if you still don’t have the proper preparation just means more money wasted.”

     Taking a math course you’re not prepared for is like taking an advanced course in Mandarin when you don’t know the basics: you don’t know enough to get started, and so you gain nothing from the course. Taking the course again isn’t going to help, but that’s what students will do under the social promotion system.

“This isn't rocket science. If students don't have the skills to complete a college course and you let them take the course, there's a likelihood they'll fail the course,” he said. “What did they expect? All along this legislation was questioned by experts in the field.”

     It’s queer that faculty aren’t quoted much in this article, just administrators, who get to look real sharp with their 20/20 hindsight. Faculty were saying these sorts of things last year.

      What also happens is students just decide not to take the qualifying courses, and go through the whole college career unable to the basic things; they cover up this fact by taking all the bogus coursework administration offers, like Game of Thrones courses, or courses on Not Shaving, or Lady Gaga courses, among many other ridiculous options. Then, after 5 or 6 years of strange coursework, these students become stuck: they can’t take any courses that would let them get a good degree, because they danced around the basic preparation courses:

And 47 percent of the students chose not to retake any math at that time, which is one reason the college is changing its policy on how long students have to retake a course, said Patrick Rinard, St. Petersburg's associate vice president of enrollment services.

     Wow, that guy is “associate vice president of enrollment services.” Goodness, what a fancy title for that fiefdom. I feel the need to point out St. Petersburg’s college has around 30,000 students and around 300 faculty…and yet they have so many vice presidents that they need associate vice presidents as well. The United States has over 300,000,000 people in it, and still sees no need for an associate vice president. Seriously, there are way too many administrators in higher education. I probably should look at this place more closely later, since they are “#1 in Online Education,” or so they say.

     “One of the things we were noticing for those students was that a certain percentage weren't enrolling the following term. They were choosing to take other courses,” said Coraggio. “It's like their heads are in the sand. They're putting it off.”
--Jesse Coraggio is “vice president of institutional effectiveness and academic services” at St. Petersburg College. The man’s title is five times as long as his name. It’s amazing there are so many titles and fiefdoms at this school. A town as big as this school would merit a mayor, and not a busload of vice presidents…seriously, way too many administrators in higher education.

     One must appreciate the arrogance here. “They’re putting it off,” says the high administrator. Students with no real chance at college have been doing this sort of thing for decades, and only now the administrator notices? Seriously, what’s wrong with saying “higher education isn’t for you, would you please consider going to a vocational school?” Not everyone needs to know the obscurities covered in higher education…and the material is available online for anyone who wants it. All the college offers is “credits,” slips of paper that assert…not much.

     One must also appreciate the insincerity here. The administrator is chastising students for “putting it off” when he knows full well admin could, instead of screwing students into worthless coursework, mandate that students must take the courses they need to progress them towards a degree. You don’t need a state law for that, a single phone call to the registrar’s office would fix it. Guess they don’t have a senior associate junior assistant vice chancellor regent president provost deanling of the Kingdom of Short Phone Calls who could handle that responsibility. Are there really not enough administrators to handle this task?

      Since faculty didn’t get the option to speak about this (because it’s so easy to get it right after the fact that administration took over), next time I’ll look at the comments section to reveal some more obvious truths about the effects of social promotion at the college level.

No comments:

Post a Comment