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7 solutions for higher education: part one
The Battalion ^ | June 8, 2011 | Taylor Wolken

Posted on 06/16/2011 9:06:55 AM PDT by tysonbam

Last month, faculty members circulated an open letter to Richard Box, Chairman of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, expressing concern over the seven solutions and garnering over 800 signatures of support. Finally, on May 26 Professor Jaime Grunlan gave an impassioned speech to the Board of Regents questioning the SLATE program, which grants professors cash rewards for the best student evaluations and was met with thunderous applause.

With all the concern over these "Seven Breakthrough Solutions," we will spend the next several days looking at each solution.

Breakthrough solution one is to "Measure Teaching Efficiency and Effectiveness and Publicly Recognize Extraordinary Teachers."

The goal is "to improve the quality of teaching by providing legislators and governing boards with a simple tool to measure faculty teaching performance and to publicly recognize excellent teachers."

At face value, the solution and goal appears bland and uncontroversial however there are some red flags. How does one measure "efficiency and effectiveness" accurately with "a simple tool" when the subject matter is complex and subjective?

Step one is to "gather the data and measure teaching efficiency and effectiveness."

Step A is compiling salary and benefit costs, total students taught in the last year, average student satisfaction rating and average percentage of A's and B's awarded.

Step B is dividing total employment cost for each professor by the number of students taught and "force rank from highest cost per student taught to lowest cost per student taught."

This would be an excellent metric if every class was the same size, could be taught the same way, and required the same expertise from each professor.

Evaluating "efficiency and effectiveness" using class size has significant drawbacks. Core curriculum courses generally have the largest class sizes followed by mandatory classes in each major and the smallest classes are upper level courses. On the other hand, professors and grad students with the least expertise often teach the lower level courses while those with the most expertise teach the upper level courses. Using this metric, a grad student teaching an intro course is more valuable than a seasoned professor teaching an upper level course. The effect is then enhanced because the seasoned professor makes more money teaching a smaller class.

Class sizes also vary significantly by subject. While a POLS 206 class may have 200 students, MATH 141 will be significantly smaller. Subjects like math and English—where testing can't be done for hundreds of students with scantrons—would be considered less efficient.

Step C is to "compare student satisfaction ratings and grade distributions."

This step is vague. Would high satisfaction ratings and high grades be preferable? High satisfaction ratings and low grades? Low satisfaction and high grades, or low satisfaction and low grades? Perhaps the TPPF will enlighten us with a guest column.

Since it is unclear what the preferred outcome is, let's simply address the viability of using student satisfaction ratings.

What does student satisfaction measure? Critics call it a popularity contest, but that is a bit unfair. Truth is we don't really know what student satisfaction really measures.

Was the class highly rated because the professor was likeable? Was it cause the student got an A? Was it well taught? Did the course meet the student's expectations? What were their expectations? Does a student evaluate a blow-off class the same as one in their major? Did the student learn a lot from the class? Were theymad the professor had a strict attendance policy? Who knows?

Student satisfaction is subjective and we don't know the criteria.

Step D is to collect and read all research articles published in the last twelve months for high cost faculty.

This step is also vague. Who are high cost faculty? Are all high cost faculty researchers? Is this a measure of how often they publish or is there some criteria to evaluate quality of research?

Many professors see the seven solutions as an attack on research. In regard to research, TPPF spokesman David Guenthner lamented, "You can talk about the double helix on one end of the spectrum, but on the other end of the spectrum you have the professor who does the study on Texas barbecue."

Guenthner doesn't seem to value barbecue research yet countless restaurant chains spend billions of dollars perfecting their food. According to the National Restaurant Association the restaurant industry had $580 billion in sales and employed 13 million in 2010. All research may not be equal but who gets to decide what research is better?

Step two is to "Publicly post the student satisfaction ratings and number of students taught for each teacher in several prominent locations at their respective colleges."

This final step is fair game and a matter of transparency even if it has a scarlet letter feel. If anyone should be able to see the results of a student satisfaction survey it's the students. If a rewards program continues then there is a necessity to keep the surveys done in-house but it should be noted that websites like "pick a prof" already offer students an opportunity to evaluate their professors.

An interesting part of the seven solutions is that they also address possible shortcomings of their policy.

One argument states, "Some may seek to substitute tenured faculty committees for rating faculty effectiveness or use such committees to adjust student satisfaction ratings."

Their response, "Research shows that student satisfaction ratings remain one of the best measures of teaching effectiveness, especially when coupled with student-teacher contracts that describe what students should expect to learn and limits on grade inflation."

In other words, my arbitrary and subjective rating system is better than yours.

Another states, "Some may seek to credit the "teacher of record" for teaching students, instead of the teaching assistant or part-time faculty member who is actually teaching students."

Their response is, "The number of students taught should be credited to the person who spent the most time in a class with students."

Do you ask profs if they taught or made their teaching assistant do the work?

Argument 4 states, "Some research papers list as authors researchers who may have had only a passing involvement in the research."

Their response, "Credit should only be given to faculty members who did the

bulk of the research."

Would this discourage doing cooperative research and what is considered "the bulk" of the research? If you do 51 percent and I do 49 percent does my work count?

Coming up with any metric to evaluate subjective criteria like "efficiency and effectiveness" is inherently difficult. In any line of work there is a need to evaluate workers but teaching cannot be turned into a simple formula. The metrics used in breakthrough solution one don't accurately measure teachers' efficiency or effectiveness. Professor pay divided by class size is hopelessly flawed and adding student evaluations to the equation doesn't help. Breakthrough solution one is a bust.


TOPICS: Education; Government; Politics; Society
KEYWORDS: college; education; policy; texas

1 posted on 06/16/2011 9:07:02 AM PDT by tysonbam
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To: tysonbam

Nothing will improve education until two things:

1. Burn all textbooks designed with the BF Skinner (outbased ed) techniques and infiltrated with Bill Ayers type sick Marxist and sexually-twisted minds==to condition children into group think with no intellectual knowledge .....they tell kids what to think (Maxist hogwash), NOT HOW to think.)

2. Local control of everything (no unions allowed). Parents on the boards, schoolbooks go to original source (Aristotle, not a Marxist interpretation of his “ideas”.) Go to the Federalist Papers....not to the Marxist interpretation of those papers. All our ideas are filtered through Postmodernists’ sick, twisted, thinking.....Go back to basics and prevent your children’s minds from being twisted—where there is no Logic and Reason.


2 posted on 06/16/2011 9:23:05 AM PDT by savagesusie (Virtue is a habit of the mind, consistent with nature and moderation and reason. Cicero)
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To: tysonbam

Interesting article. Spent 4 years at this fine institution.


3 posted on 06/16/2011 9:38:55 AM PDT by Neoliberalnot ((Read "The Grey Book" for an alternative to corruption in DC))
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To: savagesusie

“2. Local control of everything (no unions allowed). Parents on the boards, schoolbooks go to ORIGINAL SOURCE (Aristotle, NOT a Marxist interpretation of his “ideas”.) Go to the Federalist Papers....NOT to the Marxist interpretation of those papers. All our ideas are filtered through Postmodernists’ sick, twisted, thinking.....Go back to BASICS and prevent your children’s minds from being twisted—where there is no Logic and Reason.”

This is CRITICAL!!

If nothing else is accomplished, THIS must take place.


4 posted on 06/16/2011 9:45:02 AM PDT by SMARTY ("When you blame others, you give up your power to change." Robert Anthony)
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To: savagesusie

Totally agree.

I’d also like to see more, better, and broader standardized testing—local, state, and federal, but bubbled UP from the local rather than dripped down from the federal. And forcing instructors to TEACH TO THE TEST.


5 posted on 06/16/2011 9:48:39 AM PDT by Mach9
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To: Mach9

BK Eakman writes about the testing and curricula....You would be sick if you read what the curricula and tests are SUPPOSE to accomplish....they attack all “fixed belief” systems so they can redesign in Skinnerian fashion....what your children are allowed to think.....

John Gato, in his Underground History of American Education, is also excellent in explaining WHY our education system is destroying intellectual development. John Dewey intentionally used the Prussian model to create group think....mass conformity and they use the large classrooms all the same age as ways to humiliate and denigrate those who think outside the box.

After reading the above books and knowing what the intentions of the designers of curricula think, I could not sleep for nights, being aware of the supreme EVIL of these so called “intellectuals” (Bill Ayers Types) who are destroying the minds of our children....INTENTIONALLY.

I have spent years in the classroom and working with young children....I know how they learn and how they think and what can change and effect that thinking. I’ve seen the curricula Eakman talks about——EVIL, can’t say anything else about it.

I am NOT exaggerating at all. I am probably UNDERSTATING the EVIL of these people.


6 posted on 06/16/2011 3:54:05 PM PDT by savagesusie (Virtue is a habit of the mind, consistent with nature and moderation and reason. Cicero)
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