8.12.12

EVALUATION.

Just before final examinations come the course evaluations, which figure in the calculation of merit raises, when there's money for merit raises.  Jason Akst suggests there's a meta-evaluation of higher education going on at the same time.
College students turn the tables and evaluate instructors this time of year, but the feedback could also be about facilities, equipment, expectations, whether desired outcomes were met, etc.

Their ability to do this is necessary, useful and cathartic. The private sector has a roughly equivalent process in 360-degree reviews.

Typically, course evaluations are anonymous; instructors don’t see results until after grades are posted, so whatever they say couldn’t jeopardize their grade. Unfortunately, evaluations also occur at the most stressful time of the semester, the week before finals.
Perhaps if an institution aspiring to be the most student-centered receives a lot of written comments about construction noise, missing dry erase markers, and broken ceilings, something will happen. Or not.
The New York Times and Newsweek have published major stories recently that ask whether college is worthwhile ... and growing numbers of current and would-be students think it’s not. Both pieces are well written and raise compelling, disturbing points.

Because of record-setting debt (student loan debt exceeds $1 trillion) and a stagnant economy, more students are “hacking” their post-secondary education with a patchwork of volunteerism, free online courses, traveling, and – as the stars in both stories are doing – developing apps that sell big, thus providing all the money they’ll ever need.
Something else to add to those journalism course evaluations: the plural of "anecdote" is not "data" and a few well-off drop-outs or stop-outs do not an evolutionarily stable strategy make.  But the revealed preferences of administrators might have a pattern.
We challenge students to live up to their potential – maybe even beyond their potential – and when they do, we blast them and bury them in debt, mostly because government is increasingly unwilling to support education, and because we pay administrators and coaches exorbitant salaries?

Something is very wrong with this picture.

In 1984, a funny, poignant movie titled “Teachers” starred Nick Nolte as a maverick but quality high school teacher and Judd Hirsch as his well meaning, burned out principal. The plot was about how schools fail students by allowing them to graduate when they still can’t read.
Thus does Kirk Herbstreit's ranting become the equivalent of sub-prime college loans, although the real wrong with the picture is in the last paragraph quoted.  (Doesn't journalism have the expression "burying the lede" anymore?)

By the time those kids get to high school, it doesn't matter what a maverick teacher or a well-meaning principal does.  The damage -- perhaps by devotees of those progressive education fads that don't work  -- begins in grade school.  Yes, regular readers know this argument by heart.  I'm hoping that a few followers of the Orange Bowl excitement might look at the academic side of the enterprise.

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