All Posts Tagged With: "standards"
Certain private schools may be boosting grades
The Alberta government says it will investigate after the Calgary Herald found wide gaps between final grades awarded by certain high schools and their students’ pitiful exam performances.
The newspaper’s data show that, in most courses, marks tend to drop about 10 per cent after final exam scores, which are worth 50 per cent of the grade, are added to the 50 per cent awarded at the teacher’s discretion. But in some private schools, grades dropped a lot more after the tests.
For example, in one class at the International School of Excellence (ISE), grades fell by 38.9 per cent after an exam, which only two of 19 students managed to pass. Despite the poor exam results, everyone in the class was given their credit on the strength of high marks from their teacher.
An investigation in Ontario last year uncovered apparent “credit mills.” At these private schools, students said it was much easier to get high grades than at public schools they had attended.
Students say prof skipped class for two semesters
Three students at George Washington University allege that their professor skipped two-thirds of their three-semester evidence-based medicine course and then awarded the whole class As, reports WJLA. Venetia Orcutt, who was also chair of the physician assistant studies department, resigned after the university announced their investigation in October. One can only hope that the physician assistants students made up for the eight-months they missed before graduation.
Yet another pointless report on higher education: Pettigrew
We hear a lot of noise about “outcomes” at universities these days. Much of it is well meaning, but little is helpful. Government types like to make these kinds of noises because they want to be seen as good stewards of public money making sure education is providing good value for the dollar. But all this talk about outcomes and its demented twin “quality assurance” does nothing to make universities better. A good, or rather bad, example is this week’s report about “ensuring quality” from the Council of Ontario Universities.
According to the report, a focus on outcomes is necessary to “assure taxpayers, policymakers and government of the excellent return on investment of a university education.” I could say plenty about this kind of ugly, narrow-minded view of higher education that sees learning as merely another engine of utilitarian economic growth rather than a means to nurture a democratic civilization. And I have. So I won’t repeat those arguments here.
Instead, I will argue that any attempt to refashion university education along an outcomes-based model is, or at least should be, doomed to failure. Here’s why.
We will fail you if you deserve it: Prof. Pettrigrew
I found most of this review of Cote and Allahar’s Lowering Higher Education in the Halifax Chronicle Herald unobjectionable, but there was one passage that stood out as just plain wrong to me:
In undergraduate courses as well as high school classes, giving low marks is now verboten because it is considered detrimental to building “students’ self–esteem.”
First, I’m not at all convinced that high school is all about self-esteem these days, regardless of what one hears in the media. From what I hear from teachers, the emphasis is on “success.” The problem is that the bar for success is continually lowered until the student in question can reach it, but that’s a separate issue.
Even if the cult of self-esteem is what has trashed standards in high schools — and I don’t doubt that those standards have been trashed — I have not observed the same thing at my university.
For one thing, the principle of academic freedom is deeply embedded in university culture, and administrators know there would be a storm of protest if a professor was forced to raise a grade simply because a student felt bad about getting it. If my Dean called me up and said, “I know you gave Marley Median an F in English, but we feel that it’s important to cultivate self esteem…” I’d have hung up and placed a call to my faculty association before he finished the sentence. University faculty associations are powerful, well-funded, and extremely litigious. Administrators usually leave well-enough alone.
Second, university professors don’t have to answer to parents. Provincial privacy laws help a great deal here (sorry, I can’t discuss that…) as does the fairly pervasive sense that university students are adults (sorry, I shan’t discuss that…). Parents seem to recognize these realities as well, and where they might have gone to bat for Janey over whether Mrs. Denominator marked her math test correctly, they have no interest in calling Dr. Hightower to complain about Janey’s essay on the epistemology of Kant and Hume. Indeed, I am a comparatively tough grader, and in over ten years as a professor, I have yet to hear a parent complain that their children’s self-esteem has been unfairly trodden on by one of my low grades.
None of this is to say that university standards are not an important issue, nor to say that there are not threats to them. The reliance on positive student evaluations for tenure and promotion is a problem. So is the unwillingness to track down plagiarism. So is the over-zealous application of policies for accommodating disabilities. And the list goes on.
A wide-spread need to protect students’ self-esteem, thankfully, is not a problem at universities. At least not yet.