Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Grade inflation comes to SIUC - 2.96 out of 4? You should be ashamed.

I caught the article in the Southern about Poshard's talk to their leadership breakfast thing the other day and Poshard proudly told the world that SIU was doing a great job because of this high GPA. Now I know BS and management hype, and I'm busy trashing mayor candidates right now, so I just let this pass.

Got this email from a friend yesterday, the first quote is from Poshard's speech -
"The institution's average GPA is an impressive 2.96 on a scale of 4.0, impressive particularly because SIUC is still largely considered an inclusive institution, not an exclusive one..."
The teacher union backed NCTAF said the same thing in 1998:
"Meanwhile, what has the commission to say about the academic competence of the work force? The NCTAF report is silent on this issue except for this remarkable assertion:

Talented recruits are entering schools of education in record numbers. Due to recent reforms, both standards and interest have been steadily rising. By 1991, graduates of teacher education programs had higher levels of academic achievement than most college graduates, reversing the trends of the early 1980's.

A reader encountering this statement would probably assume that it referred to scores on the ACT, the SAT, or other standardized achievement tests. In fact, the commission's evidence for this proposition consists solely of self-reported college grade-point averages obtained from a series of Department of Education surveys of recent college graduates. Because the average GPA of education majors is higher than engineers, the commission concludes that education majors have higher levels of academic achievement.

This is preposterous. The commission ignores differences in grading standards familiar to virtually everyone in higher education. The average grade awarded in the education courses taken by 1992-93 graduates was 3.41 on a four-point scale. By contrast, the average in social-science courses was 2.96. In science and engineering it fell to 2.67. Yet science and engineering majors have significantly higher college board scores than education majors."
Anyone who read Poshard's comments knew that he clearly didn't understand what was happening or has chosen to hype a bad statistic. The thought that SIU's lowly qualified and under achieving students have earned a university wide 2.96 GPA is pretty silly. We all know that SIU's management has been driving GPA higher through management practices and promotion of professors and it is working. It is likely that by lowering the standards they are damming the institution for the long haul, but who cares? They will be retired before anyone figures it out.

I have written about this before, but I was hoping for better from Poshard. Giving away degrees isn't a method for building up SIU.

Your comments are always welcome.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to think SIU is doing a great job because of what we can do with students. Mr. Education Major three degrees through should know better than to cite that statistic. That being said, I'd also attack the fraudulent way that US News grades schools. Why don't college presidents like Poshard stand up and fight that? SIU does a good job at building bad students up. I think that was the point he was trying to make, but I can think of better statistics to use.

That being said, people use the US News rankings to build schools and if we just dump the CBS (emphasis on the last two letters), and use the same admission scale for everyone, our US News rankings would catapult and more and better students would want to come here. When SIU gets a good recruiting and marketing campaign going, maybe phasing out the CBS would be a good thing. Enrollment would not grow as fast as people would like but I don't think we could get any lower than we are as an organization right now.

Anonymous said...

To be completely fair to Poshard and the rest of the SIU management, grade inflation is hardly just a problem at SIU. That said, I agree (shocking moment of the day) that this is an important problem that should be addressed in a more forthright manner. High grades for everyone means that degrees and their meaning become diluted in the marketplace. That's bad for the SIU students, its bad in the long run for the institution, and it devalues higher education in general.

I do not necessarily agree with the cause of said grade inflation though. Poshard et al. simply don't have enough control over what happens at the classroom level to have much of an impact on these things. The responsibility here rests with the faculty, plain and simple. Those who do not hold students up to the highest standards should be ashamed of themselves.

Peter in Carbondale said...

> Poshard et al. simply don't have enough control over what happens at the classroom level to have much of an impact on these things.

This is just silly. I could get the people who work for me to start milking cows in the parking lot if I choose to. The best people will leave because they have self respect and/or somewhere else to go, but I could do it. That you don't understand this might worry you a little.

SIU has publicly fired quite a few professors for having grading standards. You guys call it not getting tenure, even though your publications are good.

It wasn't Poshard doing it. But it certainly has been Wendler and Dunn.

Good comment by the way, complete ideas and everything.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me the names of the professors who were publicly fired for having grade standards? I read the SI and DE on a regular and basis but I must have missed those articles.
I won't disagree with you on most of this, but until I have some solid information, I just can' agree with you either.

Peter in Carbondale said...

What am I an oracle? Go engage in your community. SIU is a very small town, talk to people, seek out the people who recently got tenure and ask them. Go look up the professors who have "left" SIU lately and ask them what happened. Stop being lazy and do some work.

Nothing I tell you will be as valuable as what you learn yourself. Here is a start "Were you told by management that you wouldn't get tenure if you didn't improve your student evaluations and pass/retention rates?" You are welcome.

The thought that the local newspapers know that is happening or would/could publish it if they did is kind of funny. This is the value of blogs in our society today, we don't have advertisers, administrators or managers limiting us to profitable or politically correct publication decisions.

If you don't define something as public if it isn't in the paper and put into a form that you can easily understand, that is your loss.

Anonymous said...

In my years at SIU, I have yet to hear from any administrator about my pass/fail rate or my teaching evaluations. And I've flunked over half a class before and regularly give out F's to as much as 25% of my classes at times. Its not clear why you refuse to believe first-hand information.

Fraydog said...

I know what the problem was here with the management style of the past leadership since you wanted to reopen that Pandora's box. I didn't think I got it until you stated that "Poshard doesn't know what's going on at a classroom level on campus."

How hard would it be to either sit in on some lecture classes once a semester and/or teach one yourself? Honestly, if some of you people (and those who are the chief offenders know who you are) would teach classes at the undergraduate level part time while managing the institution, this would be a much better place.

The former Chancellor was so focused on Southern at 150 that he didn't check up to see how the people below him were doing. If you don't evaluate the people below you constantly, that would lead to more problems, would it not?

I think the commentator who mentioned the US News rankings was right on. After all, higher retention rates equal better rankings in US News. The whole premise of the US News rankings is crap, in other words to judge a University on the students who come in rather than the University's ability to achieve social stratification. Right now we're accessible and (fairly) affordable but I don't know if our quality levels are what they are capable of, I'm not knocking SIU, I think I'm receiving a very good education here but I think there are a lot of areas where we can improve. Rather than pointing fingers at each other, faculty and administration should work together to fix the problem.

You want to look at the chief cause of grade inflation? It's not on this campus. It's nationwide. Thank you US News and World Report. Maybe this is an opportunity for SIU to do something it hasn't done for a long time to the Higher Education community in this country, and that is provide leadership.

Peter in Carbondale said...

What I can't understand is why a professor writes that they have one piece of data and I'm wrong, even though I have many pieces of data. Don't you know about statistics? Don't you realize that your experience isn't universal and is likely to be different then the fellow in the next office? It is certainly different in departments that provide service, vs. the departments that only teach their own majors.

Go do some work and stop complaining about those of us who have already done the work.

Jezze, you can dress them up, but not take them out. :)

Anonymous said...

Well, if you're telling me to do the work and find out for myself who was "publicly" fired, I am only left to assume that you can't name names. I just don't buy some of these exotic claims. After all, publicly means just that, publicly. Peter, you get very emotional on SIU topics. You resort to calling people "stupid" and other such names when your beliefs are challenged. Or when an urban "SIU" legend is pointed out. That's what makes this blog so much fun. Keep it up.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Thank you, this blog is supposed to be fun and provide leadership in a place that badly needs both.

I guess I can't understand, why can't you call one of the union kind of guys and get the scuttlebutt? SIU directory and type in Zeman under faculty and staff. Call up and ask about the JRB horror stories.

I always do my homework and I'm hard to lie to. I'm sure enough to write this and defend it. People claimed I was making up the Wendler leaving stuff, but my sources are pretty darn good. If you will write stuff like this blog and never give up your sources, fairly quickly you become a depository of information. I think I know something that you don't know.

I never call people stupid, just their ideas. :) There aren't many stupid people in Carbondale, just lazy and to specialized as to not have common sense.