Along with its yearly ranking of America’s colleges and universities, Ben Miller and Phuong Ly at the Washington Monthly write about the poorest performing schools in their survey, the so-called “Dropout Factories.” There is certainly an assumption here that we can diagnose the mismanagement of schools by doing cross-comparisons between schools with similar student profiles. I wonder whether this is true, and what kinds of solutions might be possible. One of the commenters makes the following observation:
Suggesting that funding should be tied to performance is a facile and superficial response. Other than that, good article.
This suggestion suffers from the same problem as No Child Left Behind in K-12 — it makes no sense to take the schools with the biggest problems and add to those problems by slashing their budgets. If the problem is a failure of management, how is budget reduction while leaving the same management in place going to solve it?
It seems to me a better answer is a form of receivership — seize control of the institution and spend MORE money on it, installing an academic turnaround specialist such as one of those you identified and replacing the board of trustees with competent overseers. Incompetent management is not going to make itself competent simply because you cut their budget.
Jen Wingard, a Rhet/Comp faculty member in English and currently one of the people running the Writing pedagogy course there, was kind enough to pass this Inside Higher Ed piece along to me. Since we’re still developing our own certificate program at the CTE, I’m interested in others’ reactions to this trend: what are the benefits, what are the costs, of setting up a program like this to professionalize students in this manner? My thought is that it would certainly raise the overall quality of CC teaching, if done right. I also suspect that it would refocus the Ph. D. programs that were feeding their graduates into those jobs. What do others think?
Here are a few items of interest:
–Rick Casey, in his Sunday column, had an excellent discussion of the ten-percent rule, and its implications for prospective college students across the state. Find it here.
–It’s conventional wisdom among college administrators and faculty that colleges want their students living and studying on campus. Sociologist Ruth Lopez Turley, now at Rice, is examining more closely the effects of residential living on students at a wide variety of schools, and finding the effect is not as dramatic as you might expect. Read her interview with Jeannie Kever here.
–Another piece from Jeannie Kever, this time on Texas universities’ efforts to improve their 4-year graduation rates. The UH CTE seems to be briefly alluded to as a “faculty led effort to improve teaching.” Find it here.
We had a great time this week meeting many of the new TAs and TA supervisors in our pilot program this fall. In keeping with these discussions, I’m passing along a very helpful set of hints about making it through this new phase of your life and learning, grad school, courtesy of a regular column in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ProfHacker (a group blog that UH’s own Natalie Houston contributes to).
There’s lots of good stuff to sort through here, but my favorite piece of advice was this:
Share what you know with others. As you uncover the hidden knowledge and practices of your university, be quick to pass those insights on to others.
This works on a number of levels, but I think of it as one of the keys to having a reasonably happy life in an academic setting.
Try to be a reasonably good teacher and mentor to your students; pass along any useful bits of information that you’ve gathered about the program to the newcomers; form study groups, writing groups, or reading groups to stave off the inevitable isolation of grad school; see how you might benefit from all the learning going on around you. And so forth.
All of this reflects the basic pedagogical principle that I’ve seen validated over and over again in my own teaching: people learn much more by explaining things to others than by having things explained to them.
This kind of intellectual generosity, then, is not simply about making yourself and your knowledge available to others, but learning something in a more lasting way by communicating it to your fellow learners.
Good luck in the coming weeks,
A few of you have visited the site without leaving a comment, so I’ll throw out an opening question to see if others would like to contribute.
In the remaining week before classes begin, do you have everything you need to begin teaching? Are your resources in place, your students listed in peoplesoft, your ducks all in a row?
My own situation is that my email on the exchange has been intermittent since last week’s power outage. This has affected BlackBoard and peoplesoft, too.
So do you have what you need to begin next week?
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