Tag Archives: survey

The Perils of Student Choice

The release of SAT scores last week gives strong ammunition to proponents of a core curriculum. As reported in the Wall Street Journal , reading scores hit their lowest figure in four decades. Writing scores hit their lowest number since a writing component was added to the exam six years ago; in fact, writing scores have dropped every year except one, when they were flat.

The College Board, which administers the exam, attributes the decline to two factors. One, more second-language students are taking the exam; and two, not enough test-takers follow a core curriculum. James Montoya, vice president of College Board, is quoted to that effect in the story, and he states the case even more strongly in the College Board’s own report. In his opening remarks, Montoya asserts that “students who complete a rigorous core curriculum do better in high school; they do better on the SAT; and they are more prepared for college. This holds true across all socioeconomic and ethnic lines.”

What a contrast to the education establishment, which regards a core curriculum as narrow and authoritarian! Parents are inundated with this argument during campus tours, where backward-walking guides assure them that students have ample license in their coursework. The proliferation of choice complements trendy ideas of student empowerment and student-centered learning that caught on in the 1960s and drifted quickly up to higher education.

However, those who favor a core curriculum now have certified announcements by the College Board against a high-elective approach. They may also take heart from a survey released this week by American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Administered by Roper, the first question asked respondents if colleges and universities should force students to take classes in “core subjects” (writing, math, science, U.S. history, economics, foreign language). Fully 70 percent answered “Yes.” More than half (54 percent) of them agreed that they were “Very” or “Somewhat” surprised that many institutions do not have those requirements. Most respondents (57 percent) also said they believe schools do a “fair” or “poor” job preparing students for the job market, while 46 percent believed that institutions do not give student’s “their money’s worth.”

The combination of dissatisfaction with the overall product plus the endorsement of core curricula marks a timely opening for reformers.

Students More Liberal? Not So Fast

Political and Social Views Decidedly More Liberal.”  That’s the first finding in the 2011 American Freshman Survey, a project of the Higher Education Research Initiative at UCLA,
one of the largest annual surveys of college students. 
Last year, the Survey chalked up 204,000 first-year-of-college
respondents who filled out a lengthy questionnaire on behaviors,
attitudes, and background. 

Some of the questions were political, and the authors derive a definite liberal trend among the 2011 cohort.

Continue reading Students More Liberal? Not So Fast

A Survey We Can Do Without

Should colleges analyze their faculties by race, ethnicity and gender to see which group is happier and more content with life on campus? Short answer: no. Identity-group politics is already out of hand in the world of universities. Comparative contentment reports are sure to reinforce the notion of identity uber alles. Besides, grievance is still the coin of the realm on campus, so nothing is more predictable than a conclusion like “Minority professors on the tenure track aren’t as satisfied with their academic workplace as their white counterparts are.” The Chronicle of Higher Education offered that statement while reporting a survey conducted and analyzed by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE).

Some 8,500 pre-tenure faculty members were interviewed at 96 four-year colleges and universities. White and Latino faculty members had similar levels of job satisfaction, but Black, Asian-American and Native American faculty were less satisfied. Kiernan Mathews, director of COACHE, said that colleges that “lump everyone together” (i.e. treat each faculty member as an individual instead of as a member of a potentially unhappy identity group) may not be reaching the topics crucial to different populations. This is the way that the burgeoning diversity bureaucracy makes the case that some groups, if not oppressed or mistreated on campus, definitely need more attention. COACHE is even willing to throw the “r” word into the discussion: the organization’s research director said the racial gaps revealed in the survey suggest that “African American faculty may be experiencing some lingering aspects of racism—real or imagined.” More diversity benefits, please.