4.1.19

WHERE IS MICHIGAN'S JOHN JAGLER?

Mr Jagler is the Wisconsin legislator who sponsored a bill requiring state universities to identify the high schools that were sending unprepared students their way.  (The resulting law, unfortunately, does not allow universities to send the high schools the bill for having to staff and offer high school courses in college.)

Now comes Michigan Public Radio.  Wayne State has fastest improving graduation rate in the nation.
Wayne State University has the lowest graduation rate for public universities in Michigan, but federal data shows it's improving in that area faster than any public university in the country.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System shows that Wayne State’s graduation numbers went from 26 percent in 2011 to 47 percent in 2017.

The graduation rate for black students has tripled during this time, while the rate for first-generation students also improved rapidly.

Monica Brockmeyer, the Senior Assistant Provost of Student Success at Wayne State, says it took a lot to improve the six year graduation rate from 26 percent to 47 percent.

“The biggest single part of it was the hiring of 45 academic advisors, and so we doubled our advising capacity on campus,” Brockmeyer said.
A third of a century after I left, and they're still pushing their urban mission and first-generation, non-traditional, all the rest, with the same dismal results.  And a new slate of deanlets and deanlings.  I mean, what is a Senior Assistant Provost of Student Success without a Junior Assistant Provost and a Division of Student Success without assorted Special Assistants and Assistants To?

We used to do better.  Once upon a time, Wayne State, and its counterparts, e.g. the City Colleges of New York in New York, and Temple in Philadelphia were unapologetically all about providing strivers with the same sort of intellectual challenges their more privileged counterparts were getting at the more famous destinations, whether in Ann Arbor or Ithaca or on the other side of the tracks in Philadelphia.  These days, at Temple maybe the athletes get that kind of nudging.  Everybody else?  Not so much.

Perhaps, Wayne State and its urban counterparts elsewhere had little choice.  During my seven years there, I heard from some of the old heads how the Ivies were able to diversify their faculty by hiring the right sort of faculty away from Wayne.  That might have happened at Temple and the City Colleges.  Meanwhile, they could diversify their student bodies (a little bit) by waving scholarships at selected graduates of Cass Tech or Bronx Science.

Graduation rates at Wayne are unlikely to get better anytime soon.
In recent trial testimony, Harvard and other selective schools claim that the only way they can maintain adequate racial diversity is to use large racial preferences to admit a great many more black (and brown) students than would otherwise get in based on their academic performance.

A person of ordinary curiosity might wonder: Why is that? Just what is the state of black academic performance, after more than 40 years of racial preferences? Is it improving? How soon might significantly more black students gain enough ground on whites and Asian-Americans to win admission to selective universities based on merit? And what about the Supreme Court’s unanimous assertion in 2003 that “[e]nshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences” would be unconstitutional?
The article's author, Stewart Taylor, jr., makes a number of points, some of them in part at odds with each other, and yet he hits on the John Jagler problem: there are high schools that aren't serving their students properly.
Strikingly, the Times did not explicitly acknowledge or quantify the vast racial gaps in academic performance, such as the fact that the average black 12th-grader is academically at the same level as the average white eighth-grader. And not a word about the massive evidence that the home environments of so many African-American kids are not conducive to education.

Nor did the Times attempt to explain, other than blaming unequal K-12 schools, how decades of increased public school spending and of racial preferences in college admissions could have failed so utterly to bring even relatively prosperous black students -- or their children – much closer to academic parity with whites and Asian-Americans by age 18.

By all available measures, despite the emergence of a black middle class, the most recent data suggest that the racial academic performance gaps among 18-year-olds applying to college are as large on average as they were about three decades ago. The black-white test score gap among high school seniors in contemporary America is comparable to the gap between 13- and 17-year-olds.
I suspect that the good folks at New York's Times are reluctant to blame the victim; the report does note that "blacks and Hispanics have gained more ground at less selective colleges and universities."  That's in part the old blue-collar university model at work, even if it's been gutted at Wayne and Temple, and it ought to be a reminder to faculty and administration everywhere that they're in the same business as Harvard, and ought to be mindful of that, without patronizing their students or dumbing the curriculum down.  It might help, too, for the Office of Student Success to encourage students to shed their authenticity shackles and develop the habits the brain coaches are trying to develop for the scholarship athletes.

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