Tuesday, April 30, 2013
A Counterfeit Cash Cow
Go ahead and criticize developmental classes if you want, but get it right. They’re well-intended, but flawed, holdovers from an earlier time. They’re not anti-student conspiracies, financial aid scams, or profit centers. If they were, the for-profit colleges would have embraced them. Instead, the for-profits ducked them, and community colleges are starting to figure out that the for-profits may have had a point, even if for different reasons. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean that it’s nefarious. It may just be mistaken.
High attrition rate due to a large percentage of slackers and a fair number of students whose reasoning skills are not sufficient for them to attend college.
The latter group stays very long, refusing to acknowledge their inadequacy and sometimes I think it borders on dishonesty to keep them on board.
I also think that tutoring centers are not beneficial in math. If you cannot reason, you cannot do math, you cannot learn reasoning by repletion. Repetition is only good till the next exam.
Some students take placement tests, other opt-out and are placed in a very long path.
I don't know about English ,but it ia impossible to teach college math to the functionally inumerate and functionally illiterate.
The dev classes generate the bulk of our tuition.
A program offered by colleges are not necessarily cost-effective, and in fact can be quite expensive for colleges. These programs are also not usually popular with students, and possibly not even effective for helping students achieve success.
Only in higher ed institutions would an unpopular, expensive and ineffective concept be defended with such rigour. After all, why do schools still have remedial programs? Even if some remedial sequences benefit some students, they likely don't help other students at all.
I think this is a place where DD's question about how to "fail fast" can apply. How about removing expensive, dedicated remedial programs and placing students directly into intro sequences? If a student can't hack it, then perhaps it was not meant to be. This may be challenging, for students and for educators, but it may also bring some pluses. Treating all students like first-class students may help academics and local culture. There may also be significant cost savings, and freed resources that could go toward other projects.
And if such an experiment doesn't pan out remedial ed could be reintroduced. It wouldn't exactly be a foreign concept.
The developmental English classes are taught by grad students who PAY THE SCHOOL TO LET THEM TEACH as part of their master's program. The dev math classes are mostly taught by retired or unemployed math teachers, who are a dime a dozen, and are among the worst-paid adjuncts on campus. The tutoring center is staffed by undergrads and grad students being paid minimum wage, and it is run by one adjunct.
Given all that, there is no way that these classes and services are not a profit generator. I have heard our English dept head state that the only reason she can afford to offer upper-division poetry seminars and the like is because the developmental English classes pay the way for the rest of her programs.
I do not believe that these classes began with that goal in mind, but it sure makes it hard to change the model.
My CC never places anyone below their test scores and we have a couple of programs (rather expensive as they use tt faculty and small classes) to shorten the time in the math chain.
Universities in my state, directional or otherwise, are not allowed to teach developmental classes. I think this reflects a history of not having any open admission universities once the CC system was created.
What is odd, and took some getting used to, is how institutionalized developmental classes have become at my CC as a result of a really weak K-12 system.
My understanding is that the onus was on the student or local schools to deal with poor preparation before 1940. (Is Sherman Dorn around with some ed history?) The influx of vets from WW II with the GI Bill required dealing with HS grads who had been fighting for 4 years, something we are seeing again. But these are a tiny fraction of our weakest students.
Rumor has it that students returning after 5 or 10 years in the real world thrive in our developmental classes. The ones who come straight out of HS are the ones in trouble.
Agreed, CC Physicist. Now that almost all HS seniors are pushed into college, the result is predictable. I truly think that these kids should receive different advising, advising that allows them to consider a certificate program first (without closing off the possibility of continuing for an AA). Especially when their HS grades and/or scores indicate that the remedial sequence would be long for them.
My gut instinct (mostly from talking to new students while advising at orientation) is that the core problem is what Dean Dad mentioned: let's call it "eat your spinach" syndrome. Those classes are just that, classes, and they are classes that feel like "school" rather than "college". I'm only a spectator, but there is a common factor of emphasizing "interest" among some of the solutions being tried or discussed.
What doesn't work (except for returning students) is an intense classroom reprise of middle school and HS math.