Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dept of Education: Accreditors Clueless

By Professor Doom

     Time and again I’ve pointed out how accreditation has been taken over by the same bloated and overpaid administration that’s destroying higher education. One of the biggest signs of this is the dwindling faculty on campus; although the student base of many of our universities and colleges has doubled, and doubled again, full time faculty positions have dropped, and pay has been flat for the teachers despite the increasing workload, even as administrative positions and pay continue to skyrocket.

Memo from Admin: Please remember your syllabus is a legal contract. Unless I don't like your grading, then I will go into the system and change grades.
--Supposedly a joke tweet from an associate dean. That said, I doubt I’m only one who has worked under admin who honestly think this way…and have done this.

     It’s no secret that administration thinks nothing of faculty, and honestly wishes to get rid of us. Faculty have a nasty habit of having standards, and think it’s wrong to cheat students out of their financial lives for personal gain…there’s just no way for administration to see eye to eye with faculty on matters involving integrity.

     There’s even a book on how much administration wants to have faculty-free campuses…imagine what incredible rip-offs a pure administration campus would be! The gentle reader needs to realize that at the rate things are going on campus, such will be reality within a few decades, if not sooner.

     Accreditation, much like everywhere else in higher education, is all about the growth, about getting more people sucked into paying money for “training” by professionals, and is forever looking for new ways to get people indebted for basically nothing. The latest fad is “competency based education.”

     Why the sudden interest in something completely non-academic? Growth, of course, in this case growth into the “new market” of non-academic education.
     It’s a simple fact that, in all honesty, not everyone is suited for academics. I’m not trying to be elitist here, I openly admit I’ll never be even a mediocre football player, and do note that playing football, to judge by how our society distributes wealth, is considered a far more precious skill than anything academic.

     Higher education, after years of reckless growth due to the student loan scam, is starting to have a hard time finding suckers young people to sign up for more student debt. But the Poo Bahs that run our institutions want more growth, and the people that run our institutions are the same people that run accreditation.

     With no more growth possible in academics, accreditation is hoping to facilitate growth by “competency based education.” Hey, don’t get me wrong, competency is important…but why can’t we just have formal jobs training centers for that? Why can’t we just do that in the high schools, instead of colleges? Why can’t we just make competency determined by tests anyone can take? Nobody will even consider those questions, since answering them honestly would cut into growth…

     Anyway, accreditation set up the regulations for competency based education. Only one problem: faculty involvement is minimized, so much so that even our clueless government sees a problem:

     Now, I don’t believe you need some yahoo with 6 years of Education courses to teach something, but you do need faculty, experts, of some sort to at least determine skill, if not teach it. How did it happen that accreditation set up their regulations in a way that there would not be any actual experts to judge the competency?

The office last year issued an audit that criticized the department’s approval of direct-assessment degrees, which are competency-based credentials that do not rely on the credit-hour standard. The audit questioned the sufficiency of the faculty role in those programs, and raised concerns about low-quality providers entering the space.

     It’s no secret that “low quality providers” are already pretty common in higher education; it seems every day I read another report of another scammy school, ripping off students hand over fist…a scammy school that is fully accredited, mind you.

     Hey, you want to know what is a secret? First, an anecdote:

Faculty: “So, SACS got the assessment data we’d been gathering. The data was awful, invalid on every level. Many of the forms were filled out by the same student five, six, or more times…there was no way to tell between incoming students and students that had been here years, and yet we told SACS we were using the data to assess student improvement…some of the forms were actually testing forms that I’d filled out, to verify the scanner was working…all clumped together in boxes, no statistics beyond the means…I don’t think anyone in admin even knows what a standard deviation is…
SACS praised admin for the data…”

---a colleague just went through accreditation review at his school, by SACS, the same accreditor of UNC. He’d told me for years that the data his school was collecting was what we in the statistics biz call “garbage.” I assured him he had nothing to worry about, that SACs did not care about legitimacy as they were basically certifying themselves, and didn’t even have the competency to determine legitimacy in any event. There are many incestuous conflicts of interest in accreditation, no way submitting fraudulent data would be a problem.

     The big secret: accreditation is a joke. The same non-academic administrators that run our schools also run accreditation…it’s one of the big reasons that fraudulent schools can keep on ripping off students year in and year out, with scarcely a peep from accreditation.

     The Higher Learning Commission, an accreditor, is leading the charge for this new way to plunder student loan money for schools to grow, but it looks like the Department of Education is actually going to slow down the rate of plunder:

We concluded that the Higher Learning Commission did not establish a system of internal control that provided reasonable assurance that schools’ classifications of delivery methods and measurements of student learning for competency-based education programs, including direct assessment programs, were sufficient and appropriate to help the department ensure that it properly classified the schools’ programs for Title IV purposes,” the report said…reevaluate competency-based education programs previously proposed by schools to determine whether interaction between faculty and students will be regular and substantive,”
--Title IV is the student loan money. Emphasis added.

     So, looks like faculty-free schools are not happening really soon, at least…but the gentle reader should know that it will happen at some point, assuming higher education isn’t completely destroyed first. Would the complete destruction of higher education be a bad thing? Overall, probably not, but there are still some legitimate schools out there, and I’d regret their loss.

      Naturally, the Poo Bahs of higher education have no choice but to grin and bear this effort to restrict their attempts at plunder. As usual, however, when these guys speak they say nothing, and reveal their lack of understanding:

The audit shows the need for clarity and more communication on the definitions, requirements and processes for competency-based education, said Laurie Dodge, vice chancellor of institutional assessment and planning and vice provost

--Yes, I’ve emphasized that title, as it is a very typical title of administration. Note the length of the job title satisfies my “get rid of” guideline. Seriously, there are way too many administrators ruling over way too many fiefdoms in higher education, so many that the titles are now laughably ridiculous.

     Seriously, the Department of Education says “more interaction between faculty and students,” and admin just spews out buzzwords in response.

     Another Poo Bah (well, a former one) also has some edu-speak to say in response to the Department of Education’s request to have actual teachers in their educational programs:

“What we need is well-considered action with adequate safeguards and appropriate expectations for demonstrable outcomes to optimize the potential benefits of competency-based education while effectively stewarding Title IV resources,” he said. “I know that the institutions that continue to work diligently to assure development of high-quality competency-based education programs stand ready to help define just how to get this right.”

      Can any normal person read the above paragraph and extract “we understand you, we’ll have interaction between teachers and students in these programs” from all the edubabble? I can’t emphasize strongly enough how horrible the non-academic Poo Bahs have been for higher education. It really is pathetic that these guys are in charge. Educators can’t influence education right now, and if the Poo Bahs have their way, educators can’t even teach students anything, can’t even determine if students are learning anything.

     Now, I’m all for competency-based testing, and I think such tests should be available to all who wish to attempt them, no coursework (and accompanying huge tuition bill) required. Unfortunately, I don’t see accreditation or higher education allowing it. I imagine sooner or later, teacher-free “education” will be for sale, very expensively, at our institutions of higher education, and not just in the competency-based programs. The only thing stopping it right now is government doing its job, and only a fool can think that will last long.


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