Friday, October 1, 2010

Lex from Lakeland on the End of Real Student Evaluation.

Have you seen this story?

So this girl is on a mission to snowflake-ify college admissions. No more SAT because students are more than just numbers.

We all see what's coming next. No more grades, because students are more than just letters. Instead of transcripts, we'll have video footage of every student's most special moments--and those moments needn't be academic, because little Sylvie Snowflake thinks that her plan to revolutionize driver's ed clearly qualifies her for advanced study at a university.

But this slippery slope won't stop at tests and grades. We've already seen efforts to let students design their own majors (surely a 20 year-old is an expert about the professional world and her educational needs); it's not hard to see a day when students insist on designing their own assignments and assessment criteria because, after all, everyone has different skills and interests, and it would be unfair to require every student to complete the same assignment.

No longer valued for our expertise, no longer empowered to evaluate students and compare their performances to a recognized standard, and no longer in charge of our own curriculum, we will be nothing more than the smiling, enabling, useless encouragers who high-five and shout "atta boy!" whenever one of the troglodytes in our charge brings us whatever half-assed, misguided, ill-informed, and utterly irrelevant nonsense that they threw together at the last minute as a sad gesture towards the education they don't want and have worked so hard to dismantle.


  1. Big State U has this program called...well, let's call it the Special Scholars. Students get enrolled in the Special Scholars if they are super-smart. They pick their own classes and design their own major. They are supposedly supervised by deans. Except...well...there's one dean of the Special Scholars who is useless. In a horrible turn of events, yours truly, as a graduate student, ended up advising Special Scholars. To be fair, I received some under-the-table research funding in return. But still. Holy crap.

    The snowflakery is extremely bad. But I am seeing the implications for staffing and those are pretty horrendous, too. On the other hand? Maybe we'd all have jobs, because each Special Scholar needs their own hand-holder!

  2. Instead of transcripts, we'll have video footage of every student's most special moments.

    And it will happen, I have no doubt. The modern way will be a cross between a coronation and a party, for every student, for every class. I predict I'll have to buy a kneeling pillow of some kind, a robe, maybe a sword to tap on their precious shoulders as they breeze past me into their lives.

  3. (ps--Does this also mean they won't be using standardized evaluation forms to air their petty nastiness about us? Because I object to that standardized evaluation!)

  4. To be fair, I always wondered how useful the SATs were in predicting post-secondary academic success. We've been getting on just fine without them in Canada for decades.

  5. @Electric Maenad - that was my point too. Boycotting SATs actually is fine by me. Boycotting GREs is a good idea too. We don't use them up here and still find that we can predict pretty accurately which students are going to do okay, and which are going to flounder.

    To be brief: 75% average or up in high school will have the intellectual firepower to survive in a university environment. Lower than that and they may not have the basic tools. Grades higher than that are interestingly predictive of nothing whatever - some kids ace high school and tank in university; some kids just motor along in the B/B+ range in high school and suddenly catch fire when they find a subject that interests them in university. There's no way to know which they're going to do - SATs certainly don't measure the only thing that might actually tell us, emotional maturity.

    But letting university admissions depend on a standardized test rather than a student's lengthy track record makes no sense to me. We here in the Commonwealth find that measuring what students have actually DONE is quite a different thing from measuring what they might theoretically be capable of on a good day, and much more useful.

    So I"m entirely on this student's side, and I do not think that boycotting SATs is a slippery slope to hell. In fact I'm surprised that you'd make that argument.

  6. Full disclosure: I'm a college senior. I took my SATs, and did pretty well. Actually, I took the SAT for the first time at the age of twelve and did better than the average college-bound senior.

    (Ah, that was a memorable day... I discovered that I got my period for the first time ever between the math and language sections, and was totally unprepared for such an occurrence.)

    Anyway, I agree that this could be a slippery slope that could cause the university education to continue to lose its value.

    If I decided to object SATs, I would do it for a different reason than this student. Yes, I do believe I'm more than a number (so I chose a small liberal arts college where I have personal relationships with undergrads, grads, faculty, and deans), but my problem with the SAT does not have to do with being reduced to a number. My high school, on average, does quite well on the SATs. Why? We work really hard to ensure math and language proficiency. The requirements are demanding for both mathematics and English courses, which gives us a boost on our SATs. But I learned virtually no history/social studies, and I suspect that this had something to do with the fact that we didn't "need" it to produce good test results.

    Was I secretly happy about that at the time? Yes! History was not my favorite subject, but even then I recognized the importance of classes in the social sciences. I have come to college severely lacking in this area, and suspect that my school's lack of time spent with the social sciences has much to do with the kinds of standardized testing required.


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