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Tilting at Windmills

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August 11, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

IS OUR STUDENTS LEARNING?....In the current issue of the Monthly, education expert Kevin Carey describes the abysmal lack of information currently available about whether American colleges and universities actually succeed in educating anybody. The federal government joined in the chorus today with its own report on higher education, and Kevin was at the meeting yesterday where it was approved. His report:


From Kevin Carey: The New York Times reported today on the final recommendations of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' "Commission on the Future of Higher Education." Some of the recommendations like measuring how well colleges and universities actually educate their students and reporting that information to the public will be familiar to anyone who read the Monthly's recent higher education issue. But the article fails to get across the bruising behind-the-scenes fighting that led up the final report, or the high stakes involved for future college students. Higher education has a teflon reputation among policymakers and the general public. While K-12 schools are routinely criticized as substandard, our colleges and universities enjoy an unquestioned reputation as the best in the world. But that's based almost entirely on the elite colleges and big research universities that only educate a small fraction of all students. When you look at the system as a whole, the numbers are disturbing only 37% of students who begin at four-year colleges nationwide actually graduate in four years.

Extending the timeframe to six years only brings the rate up to 63%. For black and Latino students, it's less than 50%. A recent study found that the percent of graduating seniors at four-year universities who were proficient on a test of prose literacy dropped from 40% to 31% over the last ten years. It's not a particularly hard test; the idea that anyone can get a bachelor's degree without being able to pass it, much less 69% of college seniors, is disturbing to say the least. And all this lack of learning and graduating is taking place as colleges hike tuition by double digits every year.

To their credit, the commission's leaders understood these problems and wanted to fix them. Their goal was to issue something akin to "A Nation at Risk," the seminal 1983 report that warned of a "rising tide of mediocrity" in K-12 schools and galvanized decades of subsequent education reform. The first draft of the report contained a lot of similar strong language, resulting in various expressions of outrage and consternation from the defenders of the higher education status quo. Most people outside of education circles don't realize that higher education has a huge lobbying apparatus here in DC, one that's far more subtle and effective than their K-12 counterparts.

The result was a final report that contains a lot of good reccomendations but has been stripped of many of its most provocative and accurate criticisms. The lone dissenter on the panel was the president of the American Council on Education (the most powerful higher education advocacy group), who said he would be "more effective" if he remained "free to contest" some aspects of the report. Translation: the higher education establishment has more work to do to neutralize the remaining controversial elements of the report and ensure that no truly meaningful changes result.

Kevin Drum 1:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (78)

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"our colleges and universities enjoy an unquestioned reputation as the best in the world. But that's based on almost entirely on the elite colleges and big research universities that only educate a small fraction of all students. When you look at the system as a whole, the numbers are disturbing only 37% of students who begin at four-year colleges nationwide actually graduate in four years."

That seems like an argument in their favor, not against. If the purpose of higher education is truly education, and not some societally-agreed-upon credentialing process, then actually graduating isn't particularly important. Stressing graduation rates seems to be arguing that the purpose of a college education isn't what you learn in the classroom, it's the BA/BS that gets you admitted to certain jobs, social strata, etc.

Posted by: msw on August 11, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

from the repor:
>> Ultimately, unacceptable numbers of college graduates enter the workforce without the skills employers say they need in an economy where, as the truism correctly holds, knowledge matters more than ever.

Right up front the idea that colleges are supposed to be training facilities for corporate America, as opposed to higher education institutions. Maybe it is time the US got honest about what it really wants from colleges and let them "go pro" ie: let corporate America foot the bill for all of that training and let the graduates be their indentured servants!

I haven't gotten into the report, is there any comparison between the effectiveness of private vs state colleges> You'd think the free marketeer voucher crowd would want to know.

Posted by: Martin on August 11, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I'm not surprised the colleges did so poorly. I looked through the report and the study did not include conservative Christian colleges like Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell Liberty University. It's not surprising the conservative Christian colleges were left out of the study because they knew if they were included, it would show conservative Christian colleges did substantially better than the secular liberal arts colleges in educating students. Conservative Christian colleges instill a sense of moral values and mission in life that greatly improves a student's education.

Posted by: Al on August 11, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

There is no way for scientists, physicians, or engineers to be propagated without attending courses in university. This report is a "tale of sound and fury signifying nothing". Of course universities need improvement. I don't know of any that are not continuously trying to do so. One thing would help -- high schools should not graduate anyone who cannot write a simple declarative sentence.

Posted by: Jack von Borstel on August 11, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we know that Al comment has to be a joke, because neither Bob Jones nor Liberty University are accredited schools.

Posted by: mmy on August 11, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Golly Al, is that one of Karl Rove's talking points today? If so, its an interesting twist, considering that hard-right colleges in this country must tippy-toe around evolution, the cornerstone of modern biology. Is there a standardized test for moral values, aside from Party membership?

Posted by: troglodyte on August 11, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

37% graduating in four years does not surprise me, given that many students have to work part time to help pay for tuition. And considering that there will be some who just don't want to finish, go off to other things.

I didn't graduate in 4 years myself (was kicked out for 2 quarters, long story) but it wasn't the fault of my college!

Posted by: MobiusKlein on August 11, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't a low college graduation rate a good thing? Too many people go to college, including many who simply aren't intelligent or hard-working enough to cut the mustard. If anything, we should want graduation rates to go down, which would presumably also increase test scores.

Part of the related problem is that there's just too many colleges around. College has jumped the shark when we have state colleges with three names in the title...

Posted by: American Hawk on August 11, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Correction:

College has jumped the shark when we have state colleges with three direction names in the title...

i.e., South Southeastern State University.

Posted by: American Hawk on August 11, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

To tee-off on the graduation rate as a sign of troubles in higher education is truely misguided. The graduation rate has little to do with the quality of the education. The factors that do mitigate involve a myriad of things: adult learners who return while working or are parents; students laboring under tution increases coupled with cuts in aid, forcing them to work part-time; the fact that many degrees now require more than 4 years of courses. I teach chemistry/biotechnology at a state-supported college. If a student decides to pursue one of these programs, say starting in their sophmore year, it is almost a given that this will tack on an added year, maybe two. And this assumes attending full-time. Having not read the report itself, I can only hope that these factors are addressed in depth.

Posted by: Doc on August 11, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

The point of college is drinking, football, partying, and getting laid. The survey showed bad results because it asked the wrong questions.

Posted by: ex-liberal on August 11, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

When you look at the system as a whole, the numbers are disturbing only 37% of students who begin at four-year colleges nationwide actually graduate in four years.

I must be missing something but, in the context of this post, that seems like a deeply foolish statement. How, exactly, is this a criticism of colleges? I could see blaming the Republican Congress and President for failing to provide the financial support necessary for many to attend college full-time. Or maybe even blaming supine and drunken youth who do not have a work ethic or commitment to their own educations. But colleges?

Posted by: Baldrick on August 11, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

You don't go into any of the specific recommendations. Chief among them, as I recall, was the imposition of a requirement that the state write and require a test of all graduating seniors, to see what they've learned.

If this requirement goes through, won't it generate a powerful incentive for all schools to teach to the test? Are you confident one test all schools should teach to can be designed?

Posted by: Testphobe on August 11, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I'm not surprised the colleges did so poorly. I looked through the report and the study did not include conservative Christian colleges like Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell Liberty University. It's not surprising the conservative Christian colleges were left out of the study because they knew if they were included, it would show conservative Christian colleges did substantially better than the secular liberal arts colleges in educating students. Posted by: Al

Actually,the opposite is true. Most "colleges" like BJ and "Liberty" have very low academic standards, and many of them can't get accredited.

On the other hand, Jesuit schools typically provide excellent liberal arts educations.

Posted by: JeffII on August 11, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

The purpose of college is to get a degree to sneak by the intolerant mullahs of the Human Resource Dept. The degree's the thing, and the education itself is pretty much irrelevant, except perhaps in technical areas, and we can import zillions of Chinese and Indian nerds to do technical work at bargain prices.

Posted by: Myron on August 11, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Just cipherin' and the Bible. That's all them kids need to know. Learnin' about furriners and other countrys and stuff will just confuse 'em in the fight against our emenies.

Posted by: George W. Bush on August 11, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

I had to drop out of college after a year and a half because I couldn't afford the time to go.
Working full-time and going to school full-time was killing me, and at least with the former I had something coming in.

I'm in school again now, and at my current rate, I predict I will have that BS in 12-15 years.

Posted by: maurinsky on August 11, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

37% graduating in four years does not surprise me, given that many students have to work part time to help pay for tuition. And considering that there will be some who just don't want to finish, go off to other things.

I didn't graduate in 4 years myself (was kicked out for 2 quarters, long story) but it wasn't the fault of my college! Posted by: MobiusKlein

Seconded. I was on the six year plan due to diversions and financial straits. A much better measure would be how many graduate, period. For the first couple of years at school you are basically growing up, really having no idea what you want to study or why.

This is why I purpose a return to a mandatory national service of some sort. Let people choose between a two year stint in the military, some sort of conservation corp or a VISTA like program. Then enter college having experienced a bit of life beyond priorities of adolescence, which few people shed before or even during college.

Posted by: JeffII on August 11, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with the commission's recommendations, as I read them, was they relied on the old reliable -- standardized testing -- as the engine of reform. No two people agree on the aims of higher education, but we ought to be able to agree that the range of aims include things like creativity, integrative thinking, the capacity to review critically, innovation, rational judgement and maintaining focus within specialized fields.

Does anyone honestly believe that standardized tests can do anything except narrow such large-scale goals out of existence?

Posted by: Andy James on August 11, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Higher education is a racket. It's time to stop taxpayer subsidization of these institutions and students that are unlikely to even graduate.

The US needs to adopt a much stronger vocational model of education for high school. And if students want to go to college, they pay for it themselves.

Let higher education be market driven, and you would get programs that produce workers with skills that benefit the US economy.

Posted by: Rock on August 11, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Let higher education be market driven, and you would get programs that produce workers with skills that benefit the US economy. Posted by: Rock

That's already the situation. Why do you think there are schools of business, engineering, and computer science? Those are nothing but vocational programs. They might as well be handled at poly-technics rather as at a university.

Posted by: JeffII on August 11, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't graduate in four years either. I took as many classes as I could at the closest university to any given Air Force base that Tom was sent to. My transcript is 12 pages long. Hell, I'm still going to school and I'm 43. I teach bio and chemistry at a community college in exchange for graduate hours in biology at the state university that does major research down the street.

If I have my way, I will spend the rest of my life in academia after the first half was spent as an active-duty military dependent. (My husband is a retiree, so I will forever remain a military dependent. To all you taxpayers: Thanks for the subsidized life!)

Posted by: Global Citizen on August 11, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK


Last tme anyone looked, it turned out that college atttended did not predict GRE scores. SAT scores do, however.

College attended - say the difference between a state school and Harvard, has almost no effect on income after graduation.

Almost entirely, 'good' schools are just exclusive schools. Cal Tech graduates are smart, but then they were smart before they ever entered Cal Tech.

Next, most people major in fields that don't have much objctive content - my estimate is 80% of all degrees - and most people forget the vast majority of everything they studied in school anyhow. I've had a professor friend (taught behavioral genetics) express his frustration when he ran into a recent ex-student - an A student - who only remembered the jokes in his lectures.

Posted by: gcochran on August 11, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Too many people who shouldn't be in college are pushed into going anyway. The 37% 4 year graduation rate reflects that fact more than anything. It also tells us that a lot of colleges are still maintaining high standards.

My complaint is that college kids get WAY too much time off from class, typically 5 months a year. That's got to change.

Conservative Christian colleges as bastions of learning? They turn out students who are scientific cretins. Get serious.

Posted by: Joe on August 11, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

As a number of posters have already said, the four-year graduation rate tells us almost nothing about the quality of higher education in the U.S. The graduation rate is highest at elite private colleges and universities where the students are well-prepared upon entry and, because of family wealth or sufficient financial aid, the students can devote themselves to their studies.,

I teach at the underfunded urban branch of a state university, and our four-year graduation rate is nothing to brag about, but that's mostly because most of our students are working 20-60 hours a week to support themselves. Even our very best students often take 5 years to graduate, and weaker students can take much longer, if they graduate at all. In the 30 years I've been teaching here, the percentage of students who hold outside jobs and the number of hours they work have both increased significantly. These changes are part of the bigger economic picture, the growing gap between rich and poor and the decreasing funding of higher education provided by state governments.

Please: does anyone think that imposing No Test Left Behind standards on colleges and universities is going to do anything more than enrich the test makers? Just two days ago, I got an e-mail from ETS helpfully offering to provide tests to measure how much students in my department have learned.

Posted by: Jan on August 11, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is not how many students graduate, but how many are allowed to attend, i.e., high school "graduates" who need years of remedial math and English before they can hope to pass a freshman composition or algebra course. Unfortunately, some accredited colleges and universities don't even offer them that, preferring to hand four-year degrees to people who cannot make change or write a simple business letter. I know of at least one such graduate who quit her professional job in humiliation when her first written report was emailed around the office for everyone to laugh at its third-grade-level grammar and spelling.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on August 11, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Conservative Christian colleges as bastions of learning? They turn out students who are scientific cretins. Get serious."

Wow, that's obnoxious. I assure you Christian colleges have higher graduatiomn rates and more dedicated students than state schools or liberal arts colleges. Case in point: look at Wheaton College's excellent performance in the Washington Monthly rankings.

If you are really a "freethinker", try to move beyond your acceptance of stereotypes and disdain for rreligion and look at reality.

And it is completely possible to be religious and a great scientist. History is replete with mathematicians and scientists of faith.

Posted by: Rock on August 11, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

My complaint is that college kids get WAY too much time off from class, typically 5 months a year. That's got to change.Posted by: Joe

Huh? Where are these schools, I'd like to teach at one.

In my experience over the last 22 years in higher ed as both a student and instructor, I've never encountered a school that takes anything much more than the standard national holidays, a one week winter and spring break, and the summer break, during which school is in session with at least a partial schedule. At tops, students enrolled full time get four months off, the same, typically as primary and secondary school students.

Where did you attend college?

Posted by: JeffII on August 11, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: Why do you think there are schools of business, engineering, and computer science? Those are nothing but vocational programs.

What, pray tell, is the precise distinction between "vocational programs" and "higher education"? Why did you leave out truly silly programs like law and medicine in your examples of vocational programs?

They might as well be handled at poly-technics [sic] rather as at a university.

1. "poly-technics" isn't hyphenated.

2. Many polytechnics are fully accredited institutions.

3. Albert Einstein graduated from Zurich Polytechnic, and I heard from Mrs. Einstein that her son did ok.

Posted by: alex on August 11, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Al,

PUT . . . THE CANDLE . . . BACK!!

Posted by: call me HozenAl on August 11, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Getting a college education at today's prices is not always good value for your money. You pay anywhere from $80,000-$200,000 for the privelege of attending overcrowded lectures for four years while at the same time forgoing 4 years of potential income if you hada full-time job instead. Depending on your career plans, going straight into the workforce fulltime when you graduate from high school may be the better economic choice.

Very little that is taught to students in college cannot be learned through other, less expensive, methods.

Posted by: mfw13 on August 11, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

One more thought:

We seem to have reached a point where the use of standardized tests is to education as the use of force is to foreign policy; i.e., advocating anything else proves you're all mushy.

I can't wait until this convulsive phase in education goes away.

Posted by: Andy James on August 11, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Rock, I'm sorry but I won't back down. There is a war in this country to destroy science, and places like Bob Jones and Liberty are at the forefront of it. I can't speak for Wheaton.

If the teaching and acceptance of evolutionary FACT are to be destroyed, then the radical right must also destroy every field that provides evidence for it: astronomy and cosmology (age of the universe) geology (age of the earth) chemistry (the chemical basis of genetic mutation and variation) physics (the principles behind radiometric dating methods) anthropology, archeology, and naturally, the biological sciences themselves.

Right wing Christian colleges very often (not always, I will concede) teach creationist mythology as fact. I will oppose this mythology with every fiber of my being because its victory would mean the death of scientific rationalism in America, and the slow but steady collapse of America's scientific preeminence.

Posted by: Joe on August 11, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

"37% graduating in four years does not surprise me, given that many students have to work part time to help pay for tuition. And considering that there will be some who just don't want to finish, go off to other things."

Yea, I have to say that 4 years isn't that important. Change it to six and you would probably have a much more realistic measure of the fraction of people completing degrees on the first try. A lot of people go part time (often needing to work) and take an extra year or two. A lot of people take a few months off at some point and graduate in 4.25 years. A lot of people change majors and graduate in 4.5 years. A lot of people don't manage to get into all the classes they need and take an extra quarter or semester.

For private schools I think 4 years is probably a pretty complete measure, but for public ones many many people take a little bit longer for various reasons.

I took two extra quarters (for the second I had only one 2 credit class) mainly because I changed my major, but also because I could not get into all my second year core classes (they were chronically full, stupid department).


Still I do think that there is a bit of a problem with graduating just about anybody who bothers to show up. But really what can one expect from a country that elects a president partially on the basis of how unintellectual he appears compared to his opponent?

Posted by: jefff on August 11, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like we have the same attitudes about health care, the economy, and education - If it is working for the rich, it's working just fine!

Our millionaire pundits keep claiming our health care is the best in the world, but that is true only for those lucky enough to have it.

Our millionaire pundits keep telling us the economy is doing great, but only if you lucky enough to be rich already.

Our millionaire pundits keep telling us that our colleges are the best in the world, but only if you're lucky enough to get into the most selective...

Of course we'll have bogey men in all these cases - teachers unions, Canada's health care "nightmare", the evil death tax, etc. Just to make sure we don't get uppity.

Posted by: Chuck on August 11, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

What's proze literacy?

BTW, graduated last may after 6 years at regular college. Mostly because I only took 12 credits a semester and started on a brand new path after 3 years.

Posted by: MNPundit on August 11, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

What, pray tell, is the precise distinction between "vocational programs" and "higher education"?

I didn't make a distinction. However, carpentry, and courses for becoming a journeyman electrician and plumber are also programs typically found at American voc-techs. These are not higher education as the term is historically understood, but they are most certainly vocational.

If you read the post I was responding to, the idiot (perhaps a friend or relative?) was saying that U.S. schools should be "market driven" to provide skills needed by U.S. businesses, blah, blah, blah. I was pointing out that, probably, half of the students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities are already majoring in essentially vocational programs like, business, etc. A BA in English Language and Literature or U.S. History, unless paired with a ed certificate, isn't typically thought of as vocational study, but it is higher education.

Why did you leave out truly silly programs like law and medicine in your examples of vocational programs?

I take it you jest (though I've yet to figure out what purpose most law schools and lawyers serve). I didn't mention them because they are graduate programs. I believe the thread is addressing the shortcomings in undergraduate education.

2. Many polytechnics are fully accredited institutions.

Didn't say they weren't. In fact, Europe and Japan have made much better use of these than we have.

3. Albert Einstein graduated from Zurich Polytechnic, and I heard from Mrs. Einstein that her son did ok.Posted by: alex

Why yes he did. However, the Zurich Polytechnical is not quite the same thing as the ITT Peterson School of Electronics, but more closely resembles MIT or Cal Tech, now doesn't it?

Posted by: JeffII on August 11, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

And actually I agree that a stronger vocational education system could be part of the solution to some of the problems with US higher education.

The near destruction of unions in the US eliminated much of the vocational education that existed a few decades ago.

Posted by: jefff on August 11, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

The American University system has many functions. On the one hand, we are a finishing school for people who have the luxury to take a few extra years before going to work. On the other hand, we are a dating club for people who want to impose some a priori selectivity into their potential life-mate selection pool. We also teach some stuff (much of it at least partly recreational) and train the next generation of inventors, etc.

But lets be clear, that 66 % of college students can't read is a failure of 66 % of college students. As an assistant professor, let me tell you that there is nothing you can do to get a student who is not interested in the course to learn the material. You can give them bad grades, tell jokes, do hand springs, whatever. A certain percentage of college students are there because someone told them that they need to go to college to get a decent job. If a student does not take the initiative to learn, there is nothing you can do to make them learn. You can only provide a decent environment.

Sure, there are probably sneaky ways to structure the class so that even unmotivated students are forced to learn the material, but I don't even know that that is a good idea. Part of what college tests students on is whether they have the self control and motivation to excell when given the oportunity. The actual information is largely secondary, except for students who are going on to graduate study or in more vocationally-relevant field courses.

Posted by: Doug on August 11, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I've yet to hear someone say "too many people go to college" who (A) doesn't have a college degree themself, and (B) isn't planning on sending all of their children to college. In an economy where all the income gains are accruing to well-educated workers, where competition in the global labor market is steadily creeping up the income and skills ladder, we need to get more people into and through college, not less.

It's true that some students take longer than four years to graduate. But many don't get through in six years, or any years. According the Census, one out five employed working age adults went to college but have no degree to show for it. Some of the responsibility for this falls with the students, but some falls with the institutions as well, many of which do a poor job teaching, engaging, and supporting students.

Posted by: Kevin Carey on August 11, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Even if the education itself is valuable, the credential is the thing. Employers don't look at "some college" on a resume as a positive. Sure, there are plenty of situations where you could find an excellent reason for "some". Heck, I first enrolled in '96, took a year off when Dad got cancer (he's okay now), worked for five years at a cartoon company, and am now going back for my senior year... how many people end up on the 11-year plan? ;p

The real measure of the excellence of American colleges isn't graduation rates (which will be highly influenced by increased enrollment... i.e. more people going to college doesn't necessarily translate into more people graduating, and like other posters have said, a lower graduation rate is a pretty good indication that the degree process hasn't been watered down much.) If you examine foreign students attending US colleges, however, you'll get a good idea of how well we're doing. And frankly, folks, there's a LOT of them. Fact is, even leaving the Ivy League out of things, the average state university in the US is significantly better than any but the most elite institution abroad. (I'll except the UK here, naturally.) Even at good ol' University of Houston, which ain't that much better than a community college at times, you've got a tremendous number of foreign students pursuing their education abroad.

Presumably these students are making a rational choice, and despite the expense of going to school abroad, are coming for a better education than they can receive at home. Which speaks pretty well to our own system, if our "kinda lousy" can still attract that kind of student, no?

Posted by: Avatar on August 11, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

... Christian colleges did substantially better than the secular liberal arts colleges in educating students. Conservative Christian colleges instill a sense of moral values and mission in life that greatly improves a student's education.

You mean like this?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on August 11, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

education expert Kevin Carey describes the abysmal lack of information currently available about whether American colleges and universities actually succeed in educating anybody.

huge amounts of assessment, testing, comparing. The place I teach has to produce several HUNDRED state, federal, and accreditation reports each documenting standardized test results (and many disciplines do have standardized licensing exams at graduation), graduation rates, retention rates, and all kinds of other assessments of whether students are making progress. As an engineering faculty I spend approximately 15-20% of my total time doing assessment and reporting on teaching rather than the teaching itself.

I think it needs to be recognized that "education experts" also an constitute an industry with an agenda, namely getting more money spent on assessment, external evaluations, and consulting.

Finally, the commenters above have it right: high graduation rates should not be an end in themselves. Especially at regional colleges, the idea is that you let people have their try, even though their SAT/ACT predicts a 50/50% chance of success. Don't be surprised if some don't make it.

Posted by: eeyn524 on August 11, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this is not quite right:

A recent study found that the percent of graduating seniors at four-year universities who were proficient on a test of prose literacy dropped from 40% to 31% over the last ten years. It's not a particularly hard test; the idea that anyone can get a bachelor's degree without being able to pass it, much less 69% of college seniors, is disturbing to say the least.
The study [pdf] you link to has the 31% proficiency rate for all adults with college degrees, not college students. For students at 4-year institutions, the study cites 38% as currently scoring "proficient." (p. 24) It does not make comparisons with 10 years ago, however. That comparison comes from the NAAL survey [pdf](p. 15)--and again, that does not narrow the focus closely enough to distinguish between current college students and college-educated adults in general. (Discussed in this Washington Post article.)

The other issue, though, is that these tests are not pass/fail. "Proficient" is the highest score [the others being "Intermediate"; "Basic"; and "Below Basic"], not a passing score. So I don't think it's quite so clear cut as you make it sound.

The news isn't all bad. At least the study you link to does show that college students have higher average literacy and a higher percentage scoring "proficient" than college-educated adults in general...

Posted by: Mischa on August 11, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

. . . we need to get more people into and through college, not less. Posted by: Kevin Carey

Why? Other than accumulating more knowledge being a legitimate goal in itself, what social or economic good will be served by having a better educated population? What fields should be stressed?

Posted by: JeffII on August 11, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Three comments:

-One should not equate dropping out with not learning. I learned tons at UCLA during my two years there. In retrospect I wish that I'd stayed, but in terms of knowledge I was far beyond where I was as a high school grad.

-There's a sizeable contingent of people who slide (or trudge)through school with good grades who retain very little. These are the guys who have developed a very good ability to absorb inforrmation, regurgitate it at the proper time, then discard it to make way for new. This is a problem with "check the box" testing versus tests wherein you need a longer form answer that demonstrates true understanding. Unfortunately, that requires much more commitment on the time of the instructor. Time that individual may not have or be willing to commit.

-On a tangent, what about private primary education? All the no-child-left-behind, testing mania only applies to public institutions, while private ones are allowed much greater leeway. This can be good or bad, but I would sure like to see how ALL schools match up, not just the publics...

Posted by: Berkeley C on August 11, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The question is would really like to see addressed is whether or not the university system, as presently structured, is the most cost-effiecient way to educate students.

Think about it....at most universities students spend 70-80% of their classroom time in large groups, in many cases simply listening to lectures. With the rise of the Internet, lecturing is no longer an effective or cost-efficeint way to deliver information to students. Online education is much cheaper, and the information being conveyed is often info that students can easily find themselves on the internet. Class discussions can take place just as easily online as in a physical classroom.

So what I would like to see is colleges justifying their own existence as teaching unviersities. They are excellent research facilities, but in many cases horrible teaching institutions, especially at the undergraduate level.

Posted by: mfw13 on August 11, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

And another thing, the statistics about UT-Austin and U Florida are misleading. The implication of the cited ranking inversions is that a given student would actually learn more if they would have gone to UT-San Antonio. The statistics cannot tell us about that counterfactual.

Importantly, the big feeder schools in state systems (or any prestigious school) is going to get alot of people going there for the "Wrong" reasons (standardized test performance apparantly being the "right" reason). People will be going to the big "cool" school for football, fraternities/sororities, fun, because they are "supposed" to. Those students are bringing the scores down. Students are not randomly assigned to universities, and if you don't account for that selection, you can't use the statistics the way people want to use them.

More prestigious schools are also getting better students to begin with. If MIT is letting a bunch of people with 800 math SAT scores, and putting out a bunch of people with 800 math GRE scores, then it turns out that MIT looks like it hasn't taught the students much. The school letting in less talented students might have a much easier time improving that group. It might actually be easier to produce measureable gains in standardized test performance at lower levels. I don't remember there being any calculus on the GRE math section, though that is the main math that I learned in college.

There is also non-random selection OUT of college. If I am at a state school flagship, I might stick it out because it is more fun and because I know that a degree from UT-Austin is "worth" something in the labor market. I may not feel the same about UT-San Fiasco (San Latoya campus). Thus, poorer students might be more likely to drop out of worse schools, making the comparisons harder to make, because that will inflate the scores of retained/graduating students at poorer schools.

The worst thing about all of these evaluation techniques is that college is a highly individualistic experience. Some students are stimulated by the massive competition and diversity at a big state school. Others are helped by the more coddling atmosphere at smaller schools. Different students will be best served by different schools, and any ranking system is going to give messages to students that may well be counter productive.

As an example, imagine we get our new, awesome ranking that shows the Florida INternational is Better than Florida. Well, now everybody tries to get into Florida International instead of Florida. Some people will who would have gone to Florida will be better served. Some people will actually be poorly served by this switch. Once you put a straight out ranking out there, it collapses the whole decision process down to a number, and you will just be throwing students to a new, ill-suited university.

Education is complicated. The college experience is very rich, and is much more important than simply learning. Frankly, I don't know if giving parents more numbers will necessarily help them much. A kid will always want to go where his friends are going, and a parent will always want them going where the salaries (of graduates) are best. Niether are likely going to be making the best choice. While it is hard to argue that more information would HURT students, I doubt the effect would be large, unless people misinterpret the information.

Posted by: Doug on August 11, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

To follow up on Mischa's observation, there's this, from the report:

The percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually declined by 11 percentile points from 1992 to 2003.

Sounds terrible, right? But here's a bit of context, if we assume those numbers are about graduating seniors and the graduation rate hasn't changed over that ten-year period:

Between 1992 and 2002, enrollment increased at a slightly slower rate (15 percent), from 14.5 million to 16.6 million.

Is it possible that about the same number of college graduates are passing the prose literacy test, but that the pool of graduates has simply increased? Tough to say without more data. That wouldn't be good news, of course, but it's a different point than seems to be made in that part of the report.

Posted by: RSA on August 11, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

In the California State University system, underfunded for many years now, one factor limiting the ability of students to graduate in 4 years is availability of required courses. Our core courses fill up as soon as registration opens but we cannot offer more sections because we don't have the funds to hire the needed faculty. When it comes time to decide about reelecting Arnold, keep that in mind.

In our system, about 50% entering require some remediation, but they must leave the university if they can't get their proficiency in math and English high enough to do college work by the end of the first year. They must also pass a state-mandated graduation writing test consisting of an essay on an assigned topic. I encounter very few students who truly cannot read and write. So, I don't think the generalization is fair.

I am dismayed by the hostility toward higher education expressed by some of the comments here. Any educational experience is better than none, in my opinion. Further, the goal of higher education is to teach students to use their minds more effectively in whatever environments they will find themselves. It is not to remember later some arcane set of knowledge, nor is it to pick up job skills.

We are a polytechnic in the MIT sense (one of the top 10 in the nation along with Cal Tech, GA Tech & MIT). We expect that our grads will be able to think about the ethics of their profession, solve problems with flexibility, work well in groups and be able to communicate their thoughts, and so on. We try to assess these abilities in our courses, but there is no evidence that the public understands the mission of universities, especially when it suggests a market model for providing services and talks about the dollar value of an education. How do you place a value on becoming a different, hopefully better person? Students who participate in their courses inevitably are changed by that experience and are never the same thereafter.

JeffII asks about the good provided by education. Higher education correlates with almost everything desirable in society, from low crime, better health, income and employment, likelihood of voting, absence of social problems (domestic violence, substance abuse) etc. You can argue about the direction of causality and claim that folks who seek education would do better anyway, but I see great good in encouraging wider access to education as a pathway to a better life.

I see the changes in my students across the span of 4+ years. I see them grow. Maybe they would have improved anyway, but why should I assume that practice has an effect in every endeavor except cognition? Every one of you has had the chance to see that you get better at a video game with practice and especially when guided by hints, but why do you doubt that there is value in other learning, especially in a structured context with expert help? This discussion makes no sense to me.

Posted by: Nancy on August 11, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Is our students not learning, and we know that because graduates of "elite" schools have less annual income a year after graduating than alums of less elite schools? Might that wage gap exist because many of those impoverished elites are in the Peace Corps, in AmeriCorps, in law school or med school, or otherwise continuing to polish their resumes in ways that others cannot afford to do?

Posted by: mle on August 11, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

There is little difference in learning across modalities (lecture vs online) but there is a big difference in student motivation and student satisfaction. They want human contact and some do not structure their time well enough to be able to use online learning effectively.

There is huge pressure on professors to create more online courses because they save the university money (no room needed so increased capacity without new buildings). Such courses are more time-intensive for instructors than lecture courses, so it will not permit more students to be educated by fewer professors without decreasing the quality of education.

There is the danger that professors will be forced to teach online without being given the resources to do it well, resulting in worse education. This seems like a good idea -- the wave of the future -- just as TV classes and learning machines were touted in previous decades. It isn't working out that way, based on the empirical studies comparing delivery methods.

Posted by: Nancy on August 11, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Tell that Margaret Smelling bitch to keep her Chimpyloving hands off Higher Education!!

This is another attack on Education. Smelly Bitch is a big fan of vouchers and Christian schools and hates public schools.

Yet another reason to vote Democratic this fall.
.

Posted by: Tom3 on August 11, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Mischa is correct about the study, that's my mistake. But 38% isn't a lot better than 31%, and while it's true that the number refers to the percent "proficient," I'd encourage anyone interested to read the report and its description of what "proficiency" means in that context. The example the report gives is the ability to successfully "compare viewpoints in two editorials". If the majority of new college graduates can't do that, can we really say that our higher education system insn't in need of serious reform?

Posted by: Kevin Carey on August 11, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why should the goal of higher education be to compare viewpoints in two editorials and not to compare painting styles in two masterpieces or to compare chemical contents of two samples of liquid, or to compare two proofs of a mathematical proposition? My point is that an arbitrary one-size-fits-all test may not be a good assessment of accomplishment when academic programs vary widely. I would agree about the editorials if we were talking about political science majors, but I'd rather have my students compare the functions of the left and right hemispheres or compare two forms of therapy. There is an assumption that once you learn to compare, you can compare anything regardless of domain. Is that a fair assumption? If not, the test is measuring what proportion of disciplines emphasize comparison of verbal propositions as a core competence. It's probably the music majors dragging the average down.

Posted by: Nancy on August 11, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

This is what you get when you allow the right wing to dictate "academics" and let the Young Rethuglicans whine their way out of tough classes. Add to that the passing grades routinely given to all jocks, and small wonder there's no academic accountability. People need to go to university to learn from ALL ideas, not just the ones they feel comfy with. Even the Ivy leaguers are falling down on the job as they try to educate the legacy kids whose mommies and daddies sue if the kids don't get A's automatically.

Posted by: dejah on August 11, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Being a college student at the moment I think I have something to say about this.

The primary question here is where does the responcibility in learning lie. Is it the responcibility of the professors to force learning on students, or the students put in the work to learn. In my studies (mostly physics and math) I get far far more out of doing the homework than I do from sitting in lecture, which is not to say that lecture is useless. You learn the basics in lecture but don't understand them until you do the problems. Hence I belive that this represents a failure of the students not the colleges. Is it the schools fault that someone spends 20 hours a day playing video games?

Also do not discount the importence of networking.

Posted by: a cornellian on August 11, 2006 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

If you limited the sample to students whose parents foot the bill for college, I'd bet the 4-year graduation rate would at least double. Sorry, but anyone who thinks that graduating in 4 years is the mark of excellence is an idiot.

Posted by: Mike on August 11, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

There are many reasons to discount the report from the Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Its processor, the 1983 A Nation at Risk report is of dubious integrity. An appointed, socially conservative panel produced a document based on evaluation methods that we know today were primitive and marginally effective. The validity of this new report is poor with too many confounding variables and apparently no attempt to control for them. Reports like this should be evidence-based or well grounded in theory. This report wouldnt pass muster in my graduate theory class! I believe that pragmatism drove both panels; the ideology that controls the education process controls the populace.

A well educated populace is pretty resistant to feudalism.

Posted by: Kandis on August 11, 2006 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Carey appears to be regurgitating the talking points rather than thinking about it. As many people have pointed out, 4 year grad rates are utterly useless as a metric (and an amen to the person pointing out that it is literally impossible to graduate from a Cal State in 4 years).

"The problem is not how many students graduate, but how many are allowed to attend, i.e., high school "graduates" who need years of remedial math and English before they can hope to pass a freshman composition or algebra course. "

Exactly.

Force colleges to give standardized tests on graduation, and they'll make it real simple for themselves and just require a certain level of proficiency to enter.

That would be a terrific idea, of course. But I'm pretty sure that Kevin Carey and all the other dogooders wailing about the graduation rates have that fix in mind.

And come on. Get serious. A standardized test for graduation? Any meaningful standard of college level proficiency would guarantee that the number of black and Hispanic college graduates would plummet. No one wants to look that fact in the face. This is all talk.

Posted by: Cal on August 12, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

OT: case study about the relation between spending and results in education...

I was waiting for a post about education for bringing my new insight, given to me by a belgian friend.

Albeit with the same guidelines, history and systems, the 2 communities of federal Belgium got completely different results in the PISA test.
Amazing.

The main difference according to my friend is: MONEY SPENT, that is smaller clases, better teachers and so on.

I found that study on the web with a quick google, there is probably more for french or flemish speaking people.

http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=curej

Posted by: en passant on August 12, 2006 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

I was utterly amazed to find this:

'But there turns out to be an answer: Instead of testing discrete pieces of knowledge, test the higher-order critical thinking, analysis, and communication skills that all college students should learn (and which employers value most).'

Is Our Students Learning?
The measurements elite colleges don't want you to see
By Kevin Carey - Washington Monthly Aug06

I almost choked. On what planet exactly?

It has uniformly been my experience that any employer would prefer to knowingly offer employment to Typhoid Mary than someone capable of demonstrating 'higher-order critical thinking, analysis, and communication skills'.

People possessing these skills are 'trouble makers'. They might 'rock the boat'. Endanger someone's rice bowl.

They tend to ask awkward questions. Hell, they ask questions, period. Odds are they're smarter by half than the guy they'd report to, much less the $200M/year CEO, and that's generally about as desirable as leprosy.

They are manifestly not good 'Stepford Employees'.

Go do a search Monster.com for any or all of these terms. I'll wait...

Posted by: CFShep on August 12, 2006 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

>>I know of at least one such graduate who quit her professional job in humiliation when her first written report was emailed around the office for everyone to laugh at its third-grade-level grammar and spelling.
Posted by: Yellow Dog

Hey. I had this cutie from Baylor. BA in BusAdmin. Honors English on her resume no less.

Could not make heads or tails of a Business Week article on mortgage rates, decipher the meaning of the word 'conduit' ('Trusts are conduits for the assets...'), nor 'disposition' as in 'the disposition of the decedent's assets'.

"What's a 'decedent'?"

After returning the same simple Trust Tax return to her 4 times because she could not, even with the aid of a calculator, produce a correct result, I'd end up doing it myself.

Posted by: CFShep on August 12, 2006 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

a cornellian

At least five misspellings and half a dozen grammar and punctuation mistakes. You'd never have gotten past my high school English teachers.

Doesn't Cornell have writing classes? Take one.

Posted by: CFShep on August 12, 2006 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

No Child Left Behind hasn't exactly been a raging success in K-12--it may force some accountability on bad teachers and schools, but it also crushes the high standards, creativity, and morale of the good ones by putting all the focus on the lowest common denominator, test "proficiency." Why on earth would you want to impose such a system on the far more diverse, complex, and less regimented world of higher education, where that spontaneity and imagination are especially critical?

As a Poli Sci prof at a "directional" state school, I've had to do a lot of work for the outcome measurement game, both for accreditation and to anticipate "No College Student Left Behind," which the paid consultants swear is coming down the pike. Frankly, it's almost all crap: vacuous and time consuming cherrypicking of data that has little relationship to anything resembling quality education. Unfortunately, the real answers are too easy and unquantifiable for the bureaucrats. Hire good people, hold them to high standards of professionalism, and let them do their jobs.

I'd also echo much of what Nancy has to say about on-line ed. In rare cases, it can work. But far more often, it is a disaster, since both students and professors have to work twice as hard to communicate when there is no physical classroom within which they can interact. A book may be lower tech than a video game, but it is a better educator; the same is true of the traditional low tech classroom vs. the "virtual" one. (I'm scandalized that my school now offers an on-line education master's--no classroom time required!) The real goal of on-line ed is to replace "professors" with "content providers." One professor produces a class as a "module," which is then fully owned by the school, so that it can then be dispensed in subsequent semesters by people with far less academic training and experience. Do you want fries with your education?

Posted by: RMcD on August 12, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Modern Universities and colleges in the US descend directly from European universities established in the middle ages--usually by churches--to train literate men to write, count, clerk, negotiate, govern, teach, do law & medicine, or serve as clergy or ambassadors. From that time to this, there has been an association between elite status and a university education.

In the 1940s, only about 7% of the US population went to college. By the 1960s, that figure was up to around 30%, IIRC, and today it is around 60%. But the number of people who actually complete a four year degree has hovered in the 25-30% range since the 1960s.

Whether or not people actually complete college (as well as their choice to attend in the first place) is certainly a function of whether they can afford it, their motivation and the alternatives available to them in the job market.

It is also a function of ability--the quickness, thoroughness, accuracy and complexity with which an individual can learn and apply new information is related to scores on IQ tests. The ability to reason about abstract concepts (versus concrete things) is also related to ability. A University education, traditionally, required individuals to acquire and apply a great deal of abstract concepts quickly. The subjects and pacing of University work was geared to the ability of the top 25% of the population.

If you believe that mental ability is the consequence of ones education, not vice versa, and care about social mobility and equality--as liberals do--then it seems obvious that everyone should have a college education. Then, the fact that some people don't complete college is a major problem. Universities can be blamed for costing too much, not teaching and not meeting the needs of the students. This criticism dovetails nicely with the desire of conservatives to kill government and other public institutions that provide a civil society.

Unfortunately, the trend is towards rising inequality and declining standards of living, and Americans can't assume a comfortable, stable life anymore. No one wants to be at the bottom or middle of the social ladder: a college education remains the best hedge one has. We still equate "college" with "status."

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 12, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

RMcD: "The real goal of on-line ed is to replace "professors" with "content providers." One professor produces a class as a "module," which is then fully owned by the school, so that it can then be dispensed in subsequent semesters by people with far less academic training and experience."

Agreed. Usually on-line courses are far less rigorous than in-person courses. They treat "knowledge" as a series of facts rather than a part of a complex network of relationships and perspectives: "Trivial Pursuits" versus wisdom. Everything I have read suggests that the relationship between the teacher and the learner is tremendously important for true learning.

On the other hand, as a life-long learner, I would LOVE to be able to take certain courses from brilliant teachers on-line: on-line classes eliminate the need for physical proximity. Imagine being able to audit and do the readings for, say, a philosophy class with Peter Singer or psychology class taught by Steven Pinker. It would not be a substitute for being there, but would definitely be better than nothing.

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 12, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

PTate, I agree in principle, but the problem with the Pinker/Singer example is that it is deeply impractical. High-profile professors like that (I can't speak about those two personally) already typically do all that they can to avoid time with students. How likely are they to invest quality time with several thousand who sign up for an on-line course? The more likely scenario is that the theoretical lure of a Singer class is used to hype a system where ordinary hard-working teaching profs are routinely replaced by even lower-wage adjuncts, TAs, and grad students.

Your historical perspective in the earlier post is also helpful. But liberals need to recognize that you can't apply the same graduation and retention metrics to a system educating 60% of the public that you once used for a system educating only the most privileged 7%. Under the circumstances, the system seems to be doing pretty well as a whole.

Posted by: RMcD on August 12, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

RMcD--there are lots of different formats that go under the name of "on-line" courses. You can have a syllabus, a book the student reads and take-home tests that are graded by the "instructor". Some on-line classes consist of recorded lectures (usually just audio, but sometimes video) that students can listen to at their convenience. Some on-line classes consist of remote locations that "view" a live lecture and participate via email or IM. And so on.

I agree that a high-profile lecturer isn't going to do a hands-on online class. But they might be persuaded to provide a syllabus and videotapes of live lectures. That is the kind of thing I was imagining. A "student" would read and listen/view, but progress would not be evaluated so participation would not be degree-seeking.

I also agree that our system of higher education is basically doing pretty well. When I hear criticism of "the job that higher ed" is doing, I usually find that the "problem" is actually one of access or retention, not actual learning outcomes.

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 12, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

The discussion regarding distance education is surprising; very 20th Century. Distance Education (DE) is a rapidly evolving learner centered constructivist pedagogy (andragogy). A primary advantage is increased access for non-traditional students. The successful students tend to be intrinsically motivated and more mature. At the very least the face-to-face classrooms and various forms of DE are equal.

As a veteran of several asynchronous courses, the most striking feature is student participation. There are no extraverted brain-i-acs dominating the class. All students contribute, no hiding from the instructor. It creates a remarkably level playing field.

Bernard, R.M., Abrami, P.C., Lou,Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, Wallet, P.A., Fiset, M., & Huang, B. (2004). How Does Distance Education Compare to Classroom Instruction? A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature. Review of Educational Research, 74(3) 379-439.

The metanalysis as a pdf can be view at:
http://projects.ict.usc.edu/itw/materials/clark/DE_Meta_Fin_Jan11-04.pdf

Kandis

Posted by: Kandis on August 12, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

The point of college is drinking, football, partying, and getting laid. The survey showed bad results because it asked the wrong questions.
Posted by: ex-liberal

If you want to get laid go to college, but if you want an education go to the library. Frank Zappa.

Posted by: sa rose on August 12, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

"The discussion regarding distance education is surprising; very 20th Century. Distance Education (DE) is a rapidly evolving learner centered constructivist pedagogy (andragogy)."

Kandis, sweet talk will do you no good here! Since so much of the current "research" is more about advocacy and access to technology dollars than actually improving pedagogy, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The quality profs I know who do on-line all freely admit that it's an educational scam. The biggest advocates tend to be people who weren't any good in the classroom to begin with, although I'm sure there are exceptions. It doesn't help when advocates describe the new formats in jargonistic edu-babble: "rapidly evolving learner centered constructivist pedagogy (andragogy)."

Like parents who neglect their children, say leaving them in front of the "electronic babysitter," professors who embrace a new technology tend to convince themselves that it's really in the kids' best interests. They'll swear up and down that everybody loved the fancy power point presentation. But then talk to the students and you'll find that most skipped and just downloaded a few meaningless "slides" off the class website, while the ones who attended wanted to blow their brains out from boredom.

Beware the techie fads. There was a day when "correspondence classes" were going to render the universities obsolete, until that phrase became a byword for low rent degrees. On-line classes may have a limited place, but only as "spackle" to fill holes (or in non-degree situations as PTate suggests), never as the bricks to build the foundation of a decent education. What we need is truth in advertising. Every on-line class should be clearly labelled, so that when an employer or grad school gets a transcript full of them and a student who can't read and chew gum at the same time, they'll know why.

Posted by: RMcD on August 12, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Dear RMcD,

My time is incredibly precious to me and civilized, intelligent debate is time well spent. I prefer to deal with empirical evidence or theory driven substantive argument, not emotional froth.

Kandis

Posted by: Kandis on August 12, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think it needs to be recognized that "education experts" also an constitute an industry with an agenda, namely getting more money spent on assessment, external evaluations, and consulting.

This bears repeating, and often.

Students have to want to learn. The get compulsory education K-12 so they have to at least go to class. But in college? They don't "have to" do jack squat. As I see it, students are getting the opportunity to learn. They aren't paying for a product. They are paying for the opportunity.

And no, some of the students aren't quite up to the task. But I think it's ok to say that that's ok. The next question is...should those students seek higher education and in what venue? Will they be able to find a job?

Posted by: sa rose on August 12, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

It took me 4.5 years to graduate. I had 3 majors and always took 18 to 21 credits a semester. I'm such a slacker.

Posted by: kgb on August 12, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: dd on August 13, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

想要获得翻译公司的翻译服务?还是要进入一家上海翻译公司?英语翻译爱好者的最大希望就是能够进入一家英语翻译公司或者是日语翻译公司,不过能够进入英语翻译公司那就更好了。什么?你说法语翻译公司?那是不敢想了。特别是英语同声翻译公司担任同声翻译的工作。虽然在不少翻译论坛上询问了译友,他们也没有太好的学习翻译的建议,但是大家都说不要使用机器在线翻译的功能。

Posted by: 上海翻译公司 on August 14, 2006 at 5:59 AM | PERMALINK

to AL the fundie hit and run commenter
I think a seperate study is required to rank conservative Xian colleges against secular liberal arts colleges. I'd be interested in seeing that.

Posted by: Bria on August 14, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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