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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Open Access challenge

Bronx Community College. Photo Ryan Brenizer

The shibboleth of broadening access to higher education was due for a backlash and it's now in full swing with this title from Juliet Lilledahl Scherer and Mirra Leigh Anson, Community Colleges and the Access Effect: Why Open Admissions Suppresses Achievement

The interview at Inside Higher Ed, the authors bring out two problems that have fed the tragedy of young people funnelled into debt and failure by this agenda. They are the obsession with "success" and "completion" as the criteria of educational performance.

For success, this extract is chilling:

In our book, we also relay the shocking anecdote of a junior, tenure-track math faculty member who disclosed that her department chair had explicitly instructed her and her colleagues to lower standards to achieve the student success rates needed at the institution to maintain or increase the current budget under the new performance funding formula.

On completion, the authors comment that institutions are

so fixated on improving completion rates that academic standards are threatened and alternative postsecondary pathways that would better serve some students and their unique abilities, interests and goals are not as seriously considered as they should be

Now these two criteria, which here are cast as the villains of the plot, are of course the main marketing points of most colleges, and of most tools supplied to colleges such as e-learning platforms. The entire industry needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

Dedicated teachers ("the killer app" as I heard them described at one conference) given time and resources to do their jobs well, are probably the best way of rebalancing a system that's starting to disfunction, and cause damage to society.

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