Morning Ed: Education {2018.08.21.T}

[Ed1] The New York Times has a story on the success of charter schools in New Orleans, though it’s coming at the expense of parochial schools there. {More}

[Ed2] Lafayette Parish in Louisiana is no longer going to grade homework, and will treat cheating as a disciplinary matter instead of an academic one (allowing them to retake the test with no penalty).

[Ed3] I didn’t realize that Purdue had purchased Kaplan University. A very Mitch Daniels move. The only thing that would have been more Mitch Daniels would be selling Purdue to Kaplan.

[Ed4] Chinese graduates are returning home: a closer look at which ones and why.

[Ed5] There is a separate math equivalent to dyslexia, which is fascinating because I thought the two would come bundled together.

[Ed6] They might have gotten away with it if they’d done what our universities do, which is disdain testing in favor of a holistic evaluation wherein the people you want do better than the people you don’t.

[Ed7] Ick. What creeps.

[Ed8] I don’t know what future small private liberal arts colleges are going to have, below a certain prestige threshold.

[Ed9] It bears repeating, we have lost our minds.


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31 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Education {2018.08.21.T}

  1. Ed2: Some schools already allow retaking-with-no-penalty, not for reasons of cheating, but for poor performance. I had a (college freshman) student once ask me if they could re-take the test the class just took because, “I wasn’t on my best performance that day.” I boggled, but later found out that yes, this is a thing in some schools, along with “no hard deadlines on homework” (which also explains the people I get who don’t understand that “Your paper is due on the 6th” means I want it on the 6th so I can grade it)

    I swear these policies will be the death of me.

    Ed3: I’ve seen ads for “Purdue Online,” so I presume they have subsumed Kaplan’s infrastructure there (much like an amoeba eating a bacterium) and re-branded Kaplan’s stuff. I have….issues….with the rise of all-online-for-most-of-the-populace I won’t go into here, but I don’t think it’s an excellent move.

    Ed9: there was some talk of making whiteboards for college classrooms that were fundamentally like Captain America shields so supposedly the professors could use them to block a shooter. No word on if the campus would pay for the gym membership so the professors could bulk up to the point where they could lift the damn things.

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    • I have….issues….with the rise of all-online-for-most-of-the-populace I won’t go into here, but I don’t think it’s an excellent move.

      To be blunt, I think it depends on the purpose of the class to the student. My wife needs to periodically earn a certain number of graduate credits to maintain her teaching credential. Sometimes the class is in something that interests her. More often it is purely vocational training. She teaches a lot of AP courses. The curricula for these are moving targets, so the courses often are to bring her up to speed on what it is this year. Sometimes the courses are pure bullshit, serving solely to fulfill the requirement. This summer’s course fits in that category. At that point, finding the cheapest and least painful course that the state will accept clearly is the optimal strategy. In practice this means an online course from whatever random institution is currently in the sweet spot in the race to the bottom.

      This isn’t really anything new. Back when I was in college in the Reagan administration there was a clear division between student groups: A small body there for the love of learning; a larger body there for job training (mostly the STEM crowd, though we didn’t call it that back then); and a larger yet body there to get a degree because they expected to get a job requiring one, but what it was didn’t much matter, and quite frankly performing the job wouldn’t really need any genuine education. For that last group (which was well over half the undergraduate population) any actual education would be incidental and only accepted grudgingly. If that group today goes for a cheap online version, I say why the hell not? It will save on dorm space and on-campus parking.

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      • It’s fine, I think, for continuing ed, or for “self enrichment”

        I don’t think it’s so fine for beginner students who lack a lot of grounding in the field to begin with. But ironically, that’s EXACTLY where some colleges/unis want to go: outsourcing the intro classes (which frankly tend to be unpopular to teach because they’re a lot of effort and people-wrangling and you often get lower evals) to online, and it leads to a high rate of attrition, and you REALLY don’t want to be killing off (figuratively) the future of your major.

        And online is impossible for lab sciences unless you’re willing to accept a second-best “virtual” lab. I’m not sure I’d want to be vaccinated by someone whose intro experiences to it were solely by using a mouse to manipulate the “needle.”

        I also know of schools that do remediation this way, which, as someone who’s worked with remediation students in the past, makes me facepalm forever.

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    • Some schools already allow retaking-with-no-penalty, not for reasons of cheating, but for poor performance.

      What are the details of that like? Do they get to take exactly the same test a second time? Does it apply to final exams? Most of the students in the graduate topology class I took would have killed for an opportunity to take the same final a second time, say, three days later. (For the record, I was not one of those. The two of us who did best on the exam had both applied basic test-taking skills, read all the questions first, and noted that one shouldn’t work on them in the order they were presented.)

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      • From what I’ve heard, it’s the same darn test.

        I dunno. The problem with allowing retakes, if you’re going to have even an iota of rigor, you have to write a new test, and ain’t no one got time for that.

        We allow students to retake a class if they fail here. And if a large chunk of the class does poorly, I will allow them to do a ‘remediation exercise’ covering the most-missed topics (which hopefully helps them actually learn them) but retaking an exam involves all kinds of logistical challenges that I, teaching a 4/3 or 4/4 load don’t want to deal with.

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    • Our kids’ grade school had “no hard deadlines on homework,” which I think was intended to soften the impact of the amount of homework. When they got to middle school, deadlines were deadlines. When the grade school principal asked my wife for any constructive criticism on preparing kids for middle school, she told her that at fifth grade they probably need to start transitioning to firmer deadlines because a lot of the kids are in for a surprise.

      I’ve never head of retaking tests. I’ve heard of certain classes having a pre-test that is retaken after the material is covered. This seems to be as much about testing teacher quality, but I think its just as much about getting kids to memorize the material.

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  2. Ed7: It had to be the Onion. For a moment I thought that either a) we are in another moral panic about sex or b) I was reading an article about STEM outreach efforts to minorities backfiring. Stupid Onion!

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  3. Ed8: I graduated from an SLAC so I am. Big fan of them but I admitted that I graduated from one of the elite ones. I also am blocked from reading the article on my phone.

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      • My answer is probably not. I suppose they could add those majors though I have a strong preference for adding nursing over business.

        This is related to things I have brought up on LGM and here including with Cain below. What we are debating without mentioning it explicitly is what is the purpose of an education. Is it to develop well-rounded citizens who are knowledgeable about their world and have a deep curiosity about it, is the purpose of education to provide economic power for the nation-state and give students an advantage in the economy, both, neither?

        I’m a cynic and I think for a lot of people and a lot of policy-makers/politicians, they want education to be strictly about economic advantage for the individual and/or the nation (or whatever group). However, most politicians know they aren’t supposed to say that directly because it seems too anti-intellectual. This might be a bipartisan problem. Even Obama had to walk back his off the cuff remark about Art History degrees being useless.

        This is also not a problem that can be explained by socio-economic class in a reductive matter. When I’ve complained about this before, a lot of my fellow lefties try to say stuff like “But you and I were privileged and went to elite private colleges, we could afford to study art and the humanities and be okay.” But I’ve known plenty of people from roughly my social-economic class and above with similar educations that have the ideas that studying art and the humanities leads to being a Starbucks barista.

        I do agree with some parts of the right and libertarians when they say “College is not for everyone and not everyone needs to go to college.” In my ideal world though, this would include a lot of middle-class or upper-middle class kids who just want to study business and then get to work. I don’t know if the same is true for libertarians and the right-wing. Some practicalish subjects do deserve spots in universities. But I don’t know if business and/or business-lite majors at the undergrad level are part of these.

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  4. Worth putting here, the University of Akron is phasing out 80 degree programs and putting in three esports facilities. I am not as hung ho on Spartan University as others but this seems highly misguided and filled with buzzword logic

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    • I admit that I’m somewhat torn over the topic of whether schools should review their programs from time to time and consider not just if they should add new ones, but drop old ones. Does a state the size (population) of Colorado need five schools that grant PhD’s in mathematics? In addition, if you draw a circle with a radius of 20 miles centered on my house, four of the five are inside that circle. Granted, the traditional reason that so many schools have a graduate math program is that the department has a huge teaching load from outside the program and requires a small army of graduate students to handle it within the allowed budget.

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      • In theory, I agree with you. Not every school needs a program in every major and sometimes you get the Colorado issue that you describe.

        However the practice in these situations is often different. When schools announce they are shutting down whole programs, degrees, and departments, they often are filled with buzzwords and jargon and the schools are basically announcing their intention to be overly expensive vocational programs for people whom want white-collar degrees. The whole going after “esports” things also sounds misguided and like the admin.

        The whole education thing is a cluster fuck. Businesses like using college degrees as necessities because they don’t have to pay for On the Job training or apprenticeships. Colleges like the tuition money and the less selective ones seem happy saying “We will give you the paper and let you have a good time for four years.”

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        • Akron at least seems to be sane. When you look at the list of degrees [PDF] that they eliminated, almost all of them have low single-digit graduates for the last three years. Many of them are specialized vocational sorts of degrees, eg, Web Development and Fashion Merchandising. To be honest, given that they have a strong applied math program (it’s basically all the Math Dept web page talks about), the 2-3 students graduating with an MS in non-applied math each year were probably being done a disservice.

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        • I am not as skeptical about schools shutting down programs. I can recall three degrees discontinued while I was at college and a few weeks ago I was doing a college tour of my alma mater with my oldest child and all of those programs were back with degrees with similar names. I think there can be bureaucratic reorganization, and changes to reflect where the field is going.

          But, yeah, eliminating 80 degree programs the day before making a buy bet on competitive videogaming is signaling something. Either they are in deep trouble and going under and videogaming is misdirection, or this college is going to be quite different than other colleges, whatever they say.

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          • I’m not super-knowledgeable but competitive video-gaming is a thing and getting bigger here. Still not Korea big but bigger. Video games are a fact of life and students are going to bring consoles to college no matter what we say.

            I think CAL has an epsorts league that is competitive and goes to different colleges but I wonder how many schools can really support esports. Plus the timing is not great.

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            • Yeah, I read bits of your article to my family last night and they laughed about it, but the kids also insisted I was out of touch about how big competitive video-gaming is. It’s not the part about kids enjoy video-games, its the scholarships and paid staff that is questionable to me. Particularly since I think some of the value of college is signaling.

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      • Most states could probably get buy with only one or two law schools to. The thing is that determining how much of a particular type of school you need is difficult at best. Its nearly impossible when your dealing with degrees and programs that do not have immediate practical application like history or philosophy or even the less practical sciences like paleontology. People believe that pre-history is cool but it doesn’t have the money making power of electrical engineering, computer programing, or pharmaceutical research.

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    • My dad’s first real post (from 1969 to 1989) was at Akron and it hurts me to see what’s happening to the school. It was never a *great* school but it used to be a fairly solid commuter school, at least in some fields.

      They also had a real stinker of a past-president, who figured the budget was his own slush fund to buy fancy olive jars and such.

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  5. Ed2: After reading multiple pieces on the new policy, I still don’t know if it just means homework can’t count towards the final grade, or if it means teachers will no longer score and return homework. If the latter, I feel safe in predicting that it’s going to be a disaster.

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    • I am reading it as homework will still be reviewed by the teacher, who can make comments, but it’s not to be graded, because homework is just “practice.” This seems to be a concept directed towards math classes, where number problems are practice for exams. Someone in the linked piece is seeking policy clarification where the finished product is completed at home.

      Seems like a really bad idea for a blanket policy for grades 2nd through 12th. I’m not sure grades in elementary school mean anything, but somewhere along the line, students need to learn discipline if the goal is to make them college-ready. My question would be, is there any consequence for not doing the homework?

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      • My favorite academic class in high school — and one of the most useful ones — was senior composition. There were no tests. The whole purpose of the class was the homework: writing, and the teacher’s feedback on it. It was a long time ago. Maybe they don’t do classes like that any more.

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        • My kids’ HS English classes are various “literature and composition” courses, with different adjectives on them (American, World, Honors, AP, etc.) They are all reading and writing.

          If you’re on the lowest track of those classes, you do all of your reading and writing in class.

          If you’re on the highest track, you do all of your reading and writing outside of class, and you are either required to submit the essays on google docs, or it is very strongly preferred. Other than the semester exam, I think most of the work is outside of the classroom, and the class period is used for lecture and discussion.

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        • One of the best college classes I had was a technical writing (writing for biologists) class: every week we were composing something new, editing something from a previous week, and (IIRC) doing final polishing on something from even earlier.

          One of the challenges with teaching writing is it is VERY labor intensive to grade (I do writing assignments – at least short papers, like 5 pages – in most of my classes and that’s why I kick when the upper admin goes “Well, can’t you just expand the lecture section to 48 and teach two labs?”)

          Still, being able to write well is an important skill, and more and more I find I get students who haven’t had a lot of instruction in it. The “pound my head against the wall” message is “You need to spend AT LEAST TWICE as much time revising as you spent writing the darn first draft in the first place” – a lot of the stuff I get looks really unpolished, and also, I find a lot of my students can’t organize an argument or even information.

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  6. Ed9: this is the most useless thing I can imagine. A bulletproof backpack is not going to protect anyone from anything. And the odds of a mass shooting at any school are extremely low. This is just cashing in on tragedy.

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  7. I swear I’m a few more bad-dealings-in-higher-ed stories away from saying SHUT IT DOWN. SHUT IT ALL DOWN even though that means I’d be unemployed. Yes, as in “close every damn university in the nation and we can sort it out later, we can educate doctors by apprenticeships and the like”

    these past few years have actively hurt me to see what’s going on in higher ed. Or at least, I hurt now that a lot of the stupidities have been revealed.

    Ten more years and I can retire….

    eta: I suspect this is how some of the honest, earnest, non-abuser priests feel right now, even to a greater degree: angry, betrayed, wondering if they should just leave.

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