Thursday, May 27, 2004
TO: Alliance for A's
FROM: Janice Sidley [for background, see UD 11/30/03 and related posts]
SUBJECT: GRADUATION RATES
One thing is certain, however. Concerted efforts to combat and reverse grade inflation would undoubtedly mean lower graduation rates. Yes, some students, now gliding along learning little, would rise to the challenge of increased academic rigor. But many would fail. That is the inconvenient outcome that no one on the "assessment" bandwagon wants to contemplate, given that graduation rates persist as a standard measure of an institution's success. [NAS Online http://www.nas.org/forum.html]
Hi everyone. I begin this email with the above statement, which recently appeared on the National Association of Scholars website, because it says it all.
People are suddenly scandalized about graduation rates from colleges and universities in this country, all because some big-time, high-profile report just appeared (I read about it via joannejacobs.com] telling us that although huge numbers of American high school graduates go on to enroll in a junior college or a college (around 80 percent), only about six out of ten of them graduate in four - no, make that six - years. Rates of graduation have been shockingly low across America for a long time, actually, and yes, this represents broken dreams, a waste of money, and a logistical nightmare as large numbers of students stay put, even as new waves of students arrive as freshmen, looking for dorm and classroom space.
What are we to do about what Kati Haycock, Director of the Education Trust, calls "these devastating facts"?
Well, first of all, I'm not sure how devastating this really is. Turns out, for instance, that many of our students are working twenty or more hours a week while they're going to college. And while for some of them this is about paying tuition, Jacqueline King of the American Council on Education points out that rich students work at the same rate as lower-income - not for tuition, but for "a car payment, a cell phone, a nicer apartment, a spring-break trip." Those working hours are obviously slowing down graduation time, but for a lot of students this is by choice. They want certain goodies, and they don't want to wait for four years to get them. Do we really want to say to our students: "Buckle down. Take summer courses. Don't own a car. Make do with a modest apartment." I don't think so.
As to that aspect of the graduation rates of particular interest to our group, I refer you to the very beginning of this email. Low grades are a stumbling block to graduation, obviously. Set high standards and be prepared for overcrowding as flunkies take up all available space. Give your students A's and watch them grab their sheepskins and go away.