Sunday, December 08, 2013
The Value-Added Conundrum
Yes, I think a program that moves someone from a second-grade reading level to an eighth-grade reading level has accomplished something meaningful and worthwhile. Professor Kingsfield may blanch at that, and I won’t make any grand claims about transforming the job market, but I have faith that people who can find their way will be better off than those who can’t.
My caveat would be that it doesn't necessarily make sense to integrate this activity with other higher education pursuits. It's fine to have the third grade reading be taught on the same campus as college-level science and literature, vocational courses, and enrichment classes, but (and here I think we'll agree 100%) the evaluation of the program that improves that person's lowly reading skills needs to be completely separate from the evaluation of the college-level programs, the vocational programs, etc. It should only be bundled with the evaluation of the other programs at the biggest of big picture levels, a sort of "Is this community college meeting the full needs of the community?" question.
As to this:
The strength of the Professor Kingsfield camp is that it acknowledges the reality of supply and demand. The weakness is that it assumes that the rules are fixed, when the world is changing quickly.
Many things change, but the laws of supply and demand are eternal.
First, it's quite possible that degree inflation might be overall a bad thing for degree holders collectively (because it would saturate the market), but for any given individual, it makes sense, all other things being equal, to get a degree. In fact, degree inflation makes the individual-level decision even more necessary than before.
Second, along with the 2d grade to 8th grade example, I'd say a community college would be a success if someone takes a semester at such a college and then decides college isn't for them and goes onto something else. The cost, for the person, would have been minimal and very little (presumably) sunk in loans and opportunity cost. It is a cost to the public, of course, but I'm not sure it's not one worth paying.
Excellent analysis by Pierre@4:27AM on the effect of grade inflation on degree devaluation. One factor in the future will be the decline in college-degreed grunt work (the below-the-median engineer or lawyer) in the back office, work that will likely be done by computers in the future. That might be a factor to consider when choosing between a nothing-special college diploma and high-end auto mechanics.
"Player Piano" should be required reading in freshman English.