timoshenko's comment history

timoshenko said...

From a first look, these cuts seem to make sense. But, I am unclear how much money will be saved or if any education employees will be cut.

There are many other low-producing programs at UTC that are also low-producing nearly everywhere else in the UT/TBR system: geology, physics, and math among the sciences and foreign languages, art, theater, music and philosophy among the arts. I would not suggest closing such programs, but why can't they become service departments instead of degree-granting ones? Wouldn't that save some serious money? These groups could have the coursework to support general education and perhaps minors in the field, but not degrees. The question becomes then---does every public university need to have bachelor's degrees in these low-producing areas? Couldn't the regional universities just designate one regional school to be the performing arts place, etc.?

March 3, 2010 at 5:37 p.m.
timoshenko said...

Unfortunately, there is a much larger problem here. When it comes to helping students transfer to the four-year school, a community college must accept its role as a SERVICE institution. Many community college faculty and administrators have taken the view that they, not the four-year schools, are the best judges of what a student should take for the first two years before transferring. So the course content for a chemistry or math class at a community college might just not quite match up to its university "equivalent"---even those with the same course number and description. It is important to remember that nearly every institution of higher learning aspires to move up in classification and importance---regardless of its mandated mission. The problem is not entirely one-sided as the universities do not take the time to actually work with faculty counterparts at the community colleges. When the "working together" takes place largely at TBR/UT/THEC levels, the opportunity is missed. Regardless of the sense of this article, quality remains an issue. It's just probably too tough to begin to tackle.

February 22, 2010 at 6:14 p.m.
timoshenko said...

Perhaps I read too much into the statement about the need "to lay aside differences about standards and work for the greater good of students" in terms of the word "standards." I hope Mr. Murrah is not suggesting that standards are a nonissue! Historically, there were three reasons to go to a community college first: lower cost, access, and easier classes. The cost really is lower (you get what you pay for). The access is better (look at the branch sites for communities in this state). And yes, in many instances, the classes are easier.

Anecdote: I had to advise a student who had taken Calculus I at the local community college and was taking Calculus II the very next term at the four-year university. The student was failing Cal II and wanted to go back to retake Cal I because he realized he wasn't prepared to advance. I asked what grade he made in Cal I. He said "A." I told him that the registration system would not allow him to repeat an A, but he could informally audit Cal I. Hey, at least this student really wanted to learn! We have to accept the credit: same course number, same course description.

Then, I studied grade inflation a bit. The students that came the community college always had a higher grade point average (say, 3.0/4.0) for the community college credits than their courses at the university (typically 2.5/4.0). I'm sure there are several plausible reasons for this. I'm sure grade inflation is part of it.

When 45% of the community college classes are taught by part-time faculty, there is bound to be a standards gap. Accountability is greatly reduced. Further, such teachers are not accountable to the four-year schools at all.

February 4, 2010 at 6:20 p.m.
timoshenko said...

Not sure why this amendment is needed. Oak Ridge Associated Universities (http://www.orau.org/university-partnerships/members.aspx) has over 100 university members. All the TBR schools are mentioned. It is true that UT-Martin was not listed, but it's because they haven't pursued membership.

From the ORAU website: "As a consortium of major Ph.D.–granting academic institutions, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) cultivates collaborative partnerships that enhance the scientific research and education enterprise of our nation." Members include sponsoring universities, associate members and branch campuses.

This amendment does NOT address the concerns of Memphis. Their concerns are rooted (sometimes justifiably) in the sectionalism that has plagued higher education in Tennessee forever.

January 21, 2010 at 6:54 p.m.
timoshenko said...

Of course the CC presidents push back. But many of their arguments also apply to the four-year schools as well. Really. Ever met a student that had four majors before he/she was done? I have. I did actually.

Tracking success of students who actually survive and transfer to four-year schools sounds reasonable. Perhaps this tracking will make the CCs more accountable to the 4-yr schools for standards.

I think much of the problem lies with the Entitlement (Oops, Hope) Scholarship. What if students received scholarship reimbursements instead of money up front? What if full-time students received reimbursements based on the number of credits actually earned in a term? Maybe some weighting of quality and quantity?

Many students won't count at all in my scheme or the CC presidents' scheme. Frankly, I think students with an ACT Composite of less than XX (maybe 20) should have to go to a very structured semester-long program (similar to the time commitment that the technology centers have). Successful at this? Now go to community college. Maybe this seems too punitive, but too many students play in high school...

What would enrollment look like if it took a 24 for direct admission to a 3-yr school and a 20 for direct admission to a CC? Probably pretty scary! But also more cost-effective.

January 18, 2010 at 6:38 p.m.
timoshenko said...

The key is who decides that a course is up to snuff! The community college? The four-year schools? Accountability is lacking here.

Maybe chemistry is not a good example to use. Why? Most schools have two chemistry sequences for freshmen: CHEM 1010-1020 for folks who did not take chemistry in high school and CHEM 1110-1120 for folks who did. Maybe the course numbers don't quite match my example, but you get the point. I think most schools treat biology in the same way. If this is what the governor is talking about then blaming higher ed. is not the fix. Students need to prepare in high school OR face the consequences of "developmental" science!

Another issue is that community colleges and university don't really communicate well when changes are made in the 4-yr curriculum. Putting all the community colleges together in a separate board may help. Maybe.

Also, many students take a larger smattering of courses at the community college just trying to figure out what they want to do. Who can blame them for that? On the other hand, just earning any ole 60-65 hours at a community college doesn't mean you are half-way to a bachelor's degree.

January 12, 2010 at 5:55 p.m.
timoshenko said...

Teaching is like no other profession. With teaching, the student is actually both the customer AND the product. Historian and writer Will Durant (e.g. The Story of Civilization) wrote about the culture of education in 19th century India. Of the student, Durant said "Finally he was sent out into the world with the wise admonition that education came only one-fourth from the teacher, one-fourth from private study, one-fourth from one's fellows, and one-fourth from life."

In my years as a student, a teacher, and now as a parent, I found Durant's words and weightings to be true. There is plenty of accountability to go around. I think the governor's idea dumps twice as much accountability on the teachers.

January 10, 2010 at 8:30 p.m.
timoshenko said...

I think the governor is pushing too hard, too fast. I wonder if he is taking a page out of Washington politics... Take the 35%, sir. It's more reasonable than 51%. Work the system to improve the how-to's of the evaluation process. Anything more that 35% will only promote the "learn me" philosophy of many students. More than 35% is punitive toward teachers. More than 35% ignores the serious social/economic/family problems that hamper student learning. Don't ruin the good will of the vast majority of teachers! Please! Listen to people. The union has its own interests---true---but look beyond the union. Festina lente. For Harvard grads, "Make haste, but slowly." And yes, some students learn Latin...

January 10, 2010 at 8:13 p.m.

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