Obama college plan needs reality check

President Obama’s plan to link financial aid to college “value” will penalize lower-income students for attending colleges with low graduation rates and low earnings for graduates, argue two analysts, who call for a “reality check.”

Comparing college graduation rates is meaningless, unless students’ academic ability and other characteristics are taken into account.

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  1. Ann in L.A. says:

    You’d think he’d see the parallel with teachers’ complaints over accountability: the educational status of the students has to be taken into account when judging teachers’ effectiveness. To judge a teacher with a lots of high-achieving students the same as a teacher with lots of low-achievers isn’t fair, unless the quality of the students is taken into account.

    • So you’d set a lower standard of performance for teachers with lots of “low-achievers” in their classes so as to be fair?

      Gee, what’s wrong with this picture?

      Oh, that’s right. I don’t give a damn about being fair to teachers if it comes at the cost of being fair to the kids. The kids are the reason for the existence of the public education system after all.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Of course you would. For the same reason you judge a salesman with a bad territory differently than you judge a salesman with a good territory. You expect them both to do the best they can, but you know, other things being equal, the second one will get better results than the first.

        A marksman with a musket is judged by lower standards than a marksman with a rifle.

        • Nice try Roger but there were standards of marksmanship for musketeers and there are no standards for teachers which is what this is about, maintaining the “no standards” status quo.

          See the problem?

          The folks who enjoyed the salubrious “no standards” situation are terribly concerned about accurately applying standards now that it appears standards are inevitable. Standards simply mustn’t be put into effect until every last objection, by those who’ve never had to work to any standards, has been satisfied.

          The smell-o-meter is registering well into the “bullcrap” area.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            allen, you asked, “So you’d set a lower standard of performance for teachers with lots of “low-achievers” in their classes so as to be fair?”

            I answered that, “Of course you would.”

            You brought up standards and I tried to honestly answer your question. Since you say, “it now appears standards are inevitable,” I think we both agree that we need to think about how to apply them in a productive manner.

          • Territory I’ve already covered.

            Standards that issue from the political sphere will inevitably be tainted with political consideration. The NEA and the AFT will move heaven and earth to ensure the any standards developed will result in the best possible outcome for their membership. They’ll have allies because there are still plenty of people who believe that, all evidence to the contrary, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with public education so it must be shielded from the unwarranted attacks of those who see the world differently.

            Now it seems to have come to public attention that within the public education system there’s no effort made to measure the skill of teachers. This is a most unwelcome development since quantifying a relevant skill is so obviously useful in improving the process. Employ lousy teachers, get lousy results.

            A difficult proposition to argue against although the efforts to do so are as unremitting as they are dishonest.

            But standards are on their way and in politics once it’s clear you’re going to receive a load of lemons you start researching lemonade recipes. For the “lemon” of teacher accountability the recipe you seem to be enamored of is one set of standards for teachers who teach poor kids and another standard for teachers who teach rich kids.

            Among us chickens we can go back and forth on that proposition but on the larger stage it’s a political non-starter. Tart it up any way you want but if poor parents understand their teachers are held to a lesser standard then are the teachers of rich kids and you’ve cooked up an explosive mixture.

            But don’t believe me. Go explain to some conclave of poor parents that their kids aren’t going to do much with education anyway so their teachers don’t have to be very good.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Ms. Alta’s tenth grade English class begins with the members, on average, at a ninth grade reading level. At the end of the year, they are, on average, at a tenth grade reading level. Mr. Bajo’s class begins tenth grade, on average, at a sixth grade reading level. At the end of the year, they are, on average, at a seventh grade reading level.

            Should Ms. Alta get her full salary and Mr. Bajo get nothing? Certainly not, even though Mr. Bajo’s class is way below where they should be.

            Should they get the same pay, because they both raised their classes a full level, i.e., their “value added” was a full year? Perhaps.

            Should Mr. Bajo get more, because his class was probably not as enjoyable as Ms. Alta’s, and it may be harder to get low-reading-level tenth graders to gain a year’s skill? That’s my guess.

          • Ah, you aren’t going to respond to my posts other then to rewrite your same threadbare belief that teacher shouldn’t be held accountable for the quality of their work.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            What would you consider responding to your posts?

          • Presenting a cogent argument for why teachers shouldn’t be held responsible for the quality of their work.

            You propose that if the task is difficult teachers should have their standards of accountability adjusted to reflect the difficulty of the task. That would be in line with the traditional, public education view that teachers, and by extension the rest of the institution of public education, have no responsibility for results.

            That view’s held sway for a long time but that time is coming to an end and you might want to come to terms with that sea-change because the old excuses and the old situations are being washed away. The old view that public education’s a smorgasbord at which it’s the responsibility of each student to fill up as is their wont is giving way to the realization that there are good and bad smorgasbords and the cooks can’t be counted on to do their best work if there are no repercussions for cooking lousy food.

            I’ve got a different view. If you sign on to do the job you do it. You don’t offer excuses for why the job’s too difficult to do after you’ve started accepting pay checks. If the job’s too difficult to do to the required specifications, in your estimation, you don’t take the job and if you do take the job you shouldn’t be too surprised when your failure results in termination.

            I realize that’s a harsh attitude but it’s harsh only by the traditional standards of the public education system. Anywhere in the private sphere excuses aren’t an acceptable substitute for competence and are only put up with when they’re the result of singular events against a record of competence. On the basis of the on-going pressure to change the fundamentals of the public education system I’d say that harsh attitude is gaining public support.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            I didn’t say, “teachers shouldn’t be held responsible for the quality of their work.” You asked, “So you’d set a lower standard of performance for teachers with lots of “low-achievers” in their classes so as to be fair?” I answered, “Of course you would. For the same reason you judge a salesman with a bad territory differently than you judge a salesman with a good territory.” In a later post here, I gave examples of different ways of compensating people which depend on the results they get, two of which I thought had potential and one of which was absolutely ridiculous.

            I think teachers should be compensated based on the results they get. I also believe that teachers with low-achievers (based on the students’ pasts) should not be expected to accomplish as much as teachers with high-achievers. Or to put it a different way, teachers who can actually get good results from low-achievers should be paid more, maybe a lot more, than teachers who can get good results from high-achievers.

            As you have pointed out many times in the past, traditionally in public schools, the job teachers “sign on to do” has not been, “Bring these students from X to Y on this learning assessment and you will get paid.” It has been, “Follow the policies of the school and you will get paid.”

            If you are now going to “pay for performance,” you have to have a system that will actually accomplish your goals. Paying Mr. Bajo nothing because his kids didn’t end the year where Ms. Alta’s kids did will result in you losing him as an employee and probably not being able to hire a replacement. No private business would do that.

  2. President Obama says in one breath, that he wants to dramatically raise the graduation rates from college – especially amongst the less fortunate among us (low SES, etc.) – but then in the next breath does this, which will kill off the very colleges (like community colleges and for-profit tech schools) that those students can get into. Is he expecting everyone to get into Harvard, UT Austin, UC Berkely… and all perform well there? He’s living in a fantasy land.

    (Not that it matters. He’ll have his Cabinet members do what he wants and ignore Congress anyway.)

    • If a college can’t effectively graduate and find jobs for minorities and women, then they don’t need federal dollars. Period. And yes, finding jobs – and teaching those college graduates HOW to find jobs – should be part of their job.

      In 100 years, they’ll be tearing down the memorial for the slaveholding Jefferson, and replacing it with an Obama Memorial. Your short sightedness only betrays your small mind. (Fitting that you chose an apallation of the Cardassian on ‘Star Trek’ who tried to provide a ‘positive point of view’ of the occupation of Bejor.)

      He doesn’t NEED Congress. He’s wise enough that all they do is get in his way. Now you stop getting in his way as well!

      He’s already going to be the first President to get not one, but TWO Presidential libraries (one in Chicago, the other in Honolulu). You’ll see his greatness someday… Just maybe in your retirement home, in your case.

      • Mark Roulo says:

        Pretty good.
        But on the whole I think “blighter” over at Megan McArdle’s blog is better :-)

      • I’m not sure you’re doing your predictions of an “Obama Century” much good by demonstrating such extensive knowledge of the Star Trek universe. Perhaps you should drop some “anime” references to demonstrate your intellectual breadth.